New call for healthy eating in schools

Posted Jun 8, 2015 by Tim Sandle
Politicians in Europe are calling for a new scheme to be introduced to promote healthy eating in schools throughout the European Union.
The healthy options scheme is based on promoting fruit consumption and milk drinking in schools (insofar that milk drinking is ‘healthy’.) Although the scheme is supported by members of the European Parliament, the European Commission — which has the ultimate say — is likely to give opt-outs to individual countries. The European Commission is made up of representatives of national governments.
The new scheme is an amalgam of two previous proposals to promote fruit and milk in schools. Before either could be implemented, after two years of discussion, the two schemes have been merged together. No details have been given as to which fruits are recommended or what quantities of milk are considered to be healthy. Advice relating to milk is confusing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendations are that milk is a prime source for three important nutrients: calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. The U.K. National Health Service, in contrast, notes that most fat in milk is saturated fat and that consuming too much fat can contribute to excess energy intakes, leading to children becoming overweight.
The idea behind the scheme is that if children are encouraged from a young age to eat fruit and to drink milk, then these habits may stay with them into adulthood and this behavior in later life will help with the pan-European fight against obesity. Figures suggest that young people consume less than half of the recommended quantities of fruit each week.
Within the proposals are calls for fruit and milk products to be subsidized, making them cheaper for schools to purchase. A fund would also be set up for health promotion and education.
Discussing the proposals, Belgian Member of the European Parliament Marc Tarabella is quoted as saying: "A healthy and balanced diet is the foundation of good health. Yet consumption of fruit, vegetables and milk has been declining across the EU, with many negative consequences for Europeans. The new rules aim to ensure that more is done in our schools, not only to give our children healthy foodstuffs, but to educate them better about healthy eating habits."
The measures are no supported by all parliamentarians. Conservative politicians are of the view that such matters should not be promoted or funded, and that healthy eating is a matter of parental choice. They are also argue that such schemes are contrary to the Common Agricultural Policy.