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French Government bans tomato ketchup in school and college cafeterias
Wednesday, 12 October, 2011, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
In an effort to promote healthy eating and, reportedly, to protect traditional Gallic cuisine, the French government has banned school and college cafeterias nationwide from offering tomato ketchup.

Moreover, French fries can be offered only once a week, usually with steak hache, or burger. Not clear is whether the food police will send students to detention if they dip their burgers into the ketchup that accompanies their fries.

"France must be an example to the world in the quality of its food, starting with its children," said Bruno Le Maire, the agriculture and food minister.

Ronald Reagan's White House may have considered ketchup — made famous by Henry John "H J" Heinz, who produced the first bottle in 1876 — a vegetable. But Gallic gastronomes view it with the same disdain as American television series, English words and McDonald's restaurants: unwelcome cultural imposters.

The rules call for school officials to cut down on fatty foods and introduce more vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Four or five dishes must be offered each day with a serving of cooked or raw vegetables, preferably seasonal. Pupils can have unlimited amounts of bread and water.

Recommendations that included the ketchup cutback were made by government researchers more than four years ago, but the decree took effect only this week, a month after the start of the school year. It applies immediately to all cafeterias in schools and government buildings except those serving fewer than 80 meals a day. Cafeterias must keep records for school health officials of what has been served.

The rules leave young ketchup lovers little choice. French schoolchildren are not allowed to bring home-prepared lunches to school and must either eat in the cafeteria or go home for lunch. School and college cafeterias serve 1 billion meals a year, according to the government.

Reportedly, the changes were introduced because common sense rules on nutrition have not been followed in the nation's schools. It is learnt, six million children eat in canteens every day, but 1 in 2 of them is still hungry when they leave, as nutritional rules are neither applied nor controlled.

The French government acknowledges on its website that fewer than half of college and high school students think the food in school cafeterias is good. At the same time, figures published on the ministry of agriculture website say that fewer than half of France's youngsters are getting enough dairy products in their home diet.

Source: LA Times
 
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