A CALL has been made by the British Pig Executive (BPEX) for adequate funding so local authorities can deliver better quality school meals.
The call comes in the wake of an announcement at the Labour Party conference, that poor quality processed foods including cheap sausages and burgers, would be banned from schools meals by September 2006.
Education secretary Ruth Kelly also said there would be no more vending machines selling crisps, chocolates and sugary fizzy drinks, in schools from September 2006.
New nutritional guidelines are expected soon which will stipulate how much protein, iron and zinc should be contained in school meals which bodes well for the pork industry.
BPEX Chairman Stewart Houston said: "We are wholeheartedly behind the move to improve the nutritional content of school meals and this announcement presents a great opportunity for the British pig industry.
"Cheap sausages can often be made with cheap imported pig meat, much of which is not produced to UK standards. The great British sausage is much-loved by children and there are now plenty of reduced fat, reduced salt products available.
"These use better quality ingredients and inevitably this means higher cost. If the Government is serious, it must make sure education authorities have the resources to achieve improvements in food quality.
"It is important to get the positive nutritional role of sausages and other processed meat products in context*. Sausages contribute relatively low percentages of saturated fat and salt to the average daily intake of 4-18 year olds, whilst accounting for a significant proportion of the important daily haem iron intake of boys and girls.
"Sausages are a popular food with children with more than half of all girls and nearly two thirds of all boys eating sausages on a weekly basis. Improving the nutritional quality of sausages in schools will increase the contribution they make to a healthy balanced diet.
"Also, it is a great opportunity to get Quality Standard Mark British pork onto all school menus. It is not only a guarantee of quality but also highlights British welfare standards which go beyond those in most of the rest of the EU."
Major steps have already been taken by the industry to produce better quality reduced fat and salt sausages. This is underlined by the growing popularity of this category in the BPEX Catering Sausage of the Year competition.
All the recipes ideas now produced for the foodservice sector by the BPEX development team contain no added salt.
* The sausage market is worth about £500 million a year and the premium end of the market is showing good growth - up five per cent in August, year on year. At the same time, sales of economy sausages are down 12 per cent over the same period.
Bacon, ham, pork , pork dishes and sausages contribute 20% of the daily haem iron intake for boys and 18% for girls aged 4 to 18. Sausages provide 9% of haem iron to average intake for boys and 7% for girls. (Source NDNS, 2000).
Sausages are very popular - 71% of younger boys and 65% of younger girls (aged 4 to 6) consume sausages on a weekly basis. 64% of all boys and 55% of all girls (aged 4 to 18) consume sausages on a weekly basis. (Source NDNS, 2000).
Collectively, burgers, sausages, meat pies and pasties contribute 10% for boys and 8% for girls to the daily saturated fat intake of 4 to 18 year olds. (Data not available for sausages as a stand alone category - (source NDNS, 2000)).