Health food zealots at schools 'are destroying childhood'

Read it on the Yorkshire Post website

By Emma Lidiard

SCHOOLS across Yorkshire have been accused of "destroying childhood" after it emerged many have banned birthday cake under healthy eating rules.

A survey carried out by the Yorkshire Post has revealed that 24 out of 47 schools did not allow cake and would not permit pupils to hold charity cake sales.

The measures were criticised by politicians, children's fitness groups and education commentators who described them as "ridiculous" and said the regulations would make no difference in solving obesity problems.

The survey follows an incident in Rotherham last week where nine-year-old Olivia Morris was stopped from sharing with classmates a birthday cake made by her great-grandmother Eileen.

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "These rules are pointless, it's health regulations gone mad.

"Schools obviously need a health agenda but banning cakes is way over the top. It will not prevent obesity but it is helping to destroy childhood."

The Yorkshire Post surveyed 60 schools, of which 20 said they would allow the birthday treat, three said they would permit it but "it wasn't encouraged" and four schools said they were not sure what their regulations were.

Some 13 schools declined to answer. Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies branded the situation "ridiculous". He said: "What a bunch of killjoys, stopping a few children having a piece of birthday cake.

"And it is not going to make a difference to their health - it is what's happening at home that makes the difference.

"I have no time for these health rules and it is incredibly sad that this sort of thing is going on."

Mrs Morris said it was nonsense her great-granddaughter's friends were denied the home-made chocolate cake and blamed Jamie Oliver, claiming "things have just gone daft" since the celebrity chef's Ministry of Food project was launched in Rotherham.

Local education authorities in the region said that, while they worked with schools to form policies on healthy eating, it was up to individual schools what rules they enforced.

A spokeswoman for children's fitness organisation Zig Zag said: "Banning birthday cake from schools is not going to do any good towards solving the obesity problem. It's the other 364 days of the year that we should be worried about."

The School Food Trust, a government body designed to guide schools on healthy eating, advises that birthday cake can be brought in but should be eaten only at lunchtime in conjunction with a healthy meal. It also states that charity cake sales are allowed as long as they are not on a regular basis.

Leeds Menorah School said: "We have just recently decided not to allow it (birthday cake), due to healthy eating rules in our school."

Headteacher at Mexborough Doncaster Road Junior School, Rotherham, Mr PP Davis said: "We don't have charity cake sales, but we occasionally allow cakes to be brought in for birthdays."

Some schools said they will do allow cake providing "it is part of a balanced diet". Helen Wintertone, health co-ordinator for Whiston Worrygoose Junior and Infant School, Rotherham, said: "We do allow our kids to eat birthday cake as long as it is in proportion with other food."

LAUNCH OF HEALTHY EATING TASK FORCE

The Government is today launching a Fruit and Vegetables Task Force to encourage healthier eating.

It includes producers, supermarkets and health experts and will be headed by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn - a vegetarian - who said most people still do not eat the recommended five portions a day.

Since the Department of Health launched its five-a-day campaign in 2001, consumption of fruit juice and bananas has risen, apples and cabbages are even less popular and vitamin intake has hardly changed overall.