Cheese maker concerns at school expulsion

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags British cheese board Nutrition

A debate over cutting a simple helping of jacket potato and cheese on some English school menus reflects the significant challenge facing the entire dairy industry over the issue of nutrition, according to an industry expert.

Nigel White, secretary of the British Cheese Board, told that the decision taken by the Plymouth Education Board to remove the offending dish from their menus over fat content concerns highlights the need for greater education on dairy nutrition.

In line with ongoing debates across Europe over the idea of nutrient profiling, defined as the science by which foods are ranked according to their nutritional composition, manufacturers of dairy-based products are coming under pressure to offset obesity fears.

"Cheese can be a prime target when it comes to saturated fat and salt content,"​ said White. "However, the product is incredibly nutrient dense, [offering] one of the most concentrated sources of key nutrients including calcium for example."

Back to school

The jacket potato issue sprouts from a guide on nutrient-based standards, which is provided to UK school boards in order to ensure that their dinners provide children with sufficient vitamin and minerals, while also decreasing fat and saturated fats in their diets.

According to the nutrient-based standards set out by the School Food Trust, while many varieties of cheese contain important nutrition staples such as calcium, sodium, proteins and vitamin A, they also have higher levels of naturally occurring saturated fat.

While debate continues to rage over the impact naturally occurring fats on health, under the guidelines, school boards in the country are aiming for nutrient rich goods that are low in fat; the jacket potato and cheese menu staple has become a regional casualty of this.

Nutritional issues

White added that he was continuing to discuss nutritional issues with school boards and authorities on the best way to provide balanced diets, with portion control forming a key area of the talks.

He claimed that a 20g cheese portion, equivalent to the size of a matchbox, was the perfect daily helping for children to ensure sufficient calcium and protein intake without compromising other nutrition aims.

"The best ratio of fat to protein can be found in half fat hard cheese,"​ White stated. "Fresh cheese, such as mozzarella and cottage cheese, has a lower percentage of salt and fat content."

In accepting the need for balanced diets, particularly in school environments, White said that consumers were able to buy a much wider range of cheeses with various fat contents.

These products range from reduced fat cheeses containing about 22 per cent fat to low fat products with just three per cent, he added.

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