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Red Meat Products to Feature on School Menus

by 5m Editor
16 June 2009, at 10:53am

SCOTLAND, UK - Healthier versions of traditional mealtime favourites could hold the key to encouraging more children to stay in the school canteen at lunchtime and eat nutritionally balanced meals.

Food scientists at the University of Abertay and Scottish meat companies have joined forces with Quality Meat Scotland to develop low fat and low salt versions of popular products such as sausages which, as part of a nutritious meal, can whet the appetites of pupils whilst improving their diet.

School children across Scotland are now being given the opportunity to taste-test the new products, which meet nutritional requirements set out in the Scottish Government’s school-based eating initiatives.

The pilot project has been backed by Scottish Ministers who last year introduced guidelines to limit unhealthy school canteen options and offer youngsters nutritionally balanced meals .

Visiting a tasting session at St. Andrews primary school in Dundee yesterday, Public Health Minister, Shona Robison, said, "It’s really important that children have a healthy, balanced diet and that we make it easy for them to choose healthy food. We’ve set the bar high in schools, through our nutritional guidelines, and it’s great to see the food and drink sector respond through product innovation to drive change and enable children to make healthier food choices.

"This is an excellent example of how industry can support the work we are doing and help improve children’s health, especially those from less affluent areas. We will soon be unveiling the next stages of our developing national food and drink policy, which will have a strong focus on health and social responsibility, as well as economic development and growth. We are determined to use food and drink, part of Scotland's fabric, to make our nation a better place for all."

If successful, the healthy meat pilot scheme will be rolled out across other public-sector environments, including hospitals. Scotland’s beef, pork and lamb industries support over 30,000 jobs in the farming, agricultural, supply and processing sectors and this project could help suppliers and producers secure a larger share of the public sector’s £6 million annual meat budget.

Minister for Children and Early Years, Adam Ingram, added, "The Scottish Government is determined to ensure our young people develop a taste for the food that's good for them early in life and stop unhealthy habits from taking hold. That’s why we have introduced new healthy guidelines for all food in schools.

"We need to encourage all those involved in providing food in schools, including producers and suppliers, to work together with young people, parents and communities to ensure that school lunches are wholesome, nutritious and appealing to young people."

Quality Meat Scotland QMS initially challenged seven meat companies across Scotland to produce lower salt and lower fat versions of a range of popular meat products. Initial results follow almost two years of intensive research and development and many of the products are now well within the UK target nutrient specifications set by the Food Standards Agency.

QMS Chairman, Donald Biggar, said, "First and foremost, what we want to do is encourage more children to stay in the school canteen at lunchtimes, to enjoy a tasty and nutritious meal.

"Independent research carried out at the start of the project suggests good quality meat products could provide a popular hook to bring youngsters back to the dining table and help reduce purchases of less healthy food outside of school during break-times. We hope the industry can help schools provide a hugely popular alternative to the all too common sight of children queuing around the corner of town-centre fast-food outlets at mealtimes."

He added, "Our Scottish meat companies responded wonderfully well to their challenge – in fact one is now planning to switch their entire production range to a lower salt product."

Independent dietician, Dr Carrie Ruxton, said, "Encouraging children and young people to eat red meat on a regular basis is a great way to ensure that they’re having enough of the essential vitamins and minerals for growth. Good quality meat-based recipes - particularly those which are low in fat and salt - can be an important part of a balanced diet.

"This project is exciting because it combines healthy eating with the types of foods that children love. There is no reason why red meat products can’t be a healthy choice if they are prepared with high quality produce and cooked to minimise added fat and salt. Also, by encouraging children to stay in school to eat, we can make sure they are offered fresh fruit and vegetables which they generally don’t eat when they buy from fast food outlets."

Quality Meat Scotland’s £40,000 Red Meat Health project has received funding from Scottish Enterprise and is supported by the Scottish Government. The meat companies involved in the project are: HW Irvine, Blairgowrie; AK Stoddart; Scott Brothers, Dundee; Chapman’s, Wishaw; Duncan Fraser, Inverness; Vion Halls, Broxburn and T&R Skinner, Kippen.