The School Food Trust should lift its ridiculous ruling that classifies fruit bars as confectionery or companies may give up supplying them
Legislation is preventing my company from offering healthier food to children. I am not referring to the Food Standards Agency's controversial Nutrient Profiling Model but to the School Food Trust - government's food-based standards for school lunches.
While introduced with the best of intentions to wean school children off unhealthy confectionery, it is my contention that - in at least some areas - it is promoting unhealthy choices and preventing healthier products from entering schools.
Lyme Regis Fine Foods, an important part of Glisten, has only ever produced healthy, natural and organic snack bars. Our flagship product, the Fruitus bar, is made from organic oats and fruit with a little organic sunflower oil. The fruit content is more than 50% and the rest is organic oats, with all the nutritional benefits of wholegrain cereal. No colours, flavours, preservatives, added sugar or hydrogenated fat .
We have been making our bars this way since 1986 because this is the way we think food should be. The amount of organic fruit in Fruitus counts for more than one portion of the 5-a-day requirement. Fruitus is widely on sale through health food shops and supermarkets and it is a popular choice among parents .
The problem in supplying Fruitus to schools is that page 20 of the School Food Trust standards classifies fruit bars as confectionery, outlawing them from schools.
Frankly, we think this is bonkers. And it gets even more ridiculous. If we took the fruit out of Fruitus and replaced it with fat and sugar, we could claim it was a baked product, in which case it would appear to be acceptable under the SFT guidelines.
Another company operating in this area has done exactly that. We believe it is wrong to be forced to make our bar nutritionally inferior just to satisfy the SFT guidelines and we cannot believe that this was its intention. We would welcome the opportunity to debate this with the SFT but we have not received an acknowledgement, let alone an answer.
But there's a wider problem here. The SFT guidelines have excluded unhealthy snacks from schools and we support the initiative. However, they make it so hard to provide an alternative that there is a real chance the companies that supply school vending machines and tuck shops will just give up.
We are hearing reports of this happening already. If there are no snacks on sale in schools, our concern is that children will make unregulated snack purchases in nearby shops. Anyone who lives between a school and the local shop is able to assess the type of snacks chosen by children under these circumstances - doughnuts, crisps and chocolate bars.
We don't think fruit bars should be classified as confectionery. We do think they offer a healthy option to children. We would be happy to work with the SFT to develop a definition of a fruit bar that would ensure it delivers good nutrition through minimum fat and wholegrain cereal thresholds, absence of added sugar, no hydrogenated fat and no additives.
If we have to, we can develop snacks designed for schools, but we don't think they should be inferior to our range merely to satisfy SFT standards. Frankly, we think the SFT is daft to exclude all fruit bars from schools and it puts it out of step with what is happening in the wider world. n
Paul Simmonds is the chief executive of Glisten