New regulations on school meals will be introduced in Scotland as part of an effort to crack down on childhood obesity.
The regulations, due to come into effect by autumn 2020, will include setting a maximum limit on the amount of red processed meat that can be consumed over the course of the school week.
Scotland will become the first part of the UK to set such a limit when the change is brought in.
The move will ensure that existing school meal regulations set out in 2008 are replaced with more up-to-date guidelines.
Amendments to the regulations will also include a requirement to ensure that a minimum of two full portions of vegetables and a full portion of fruit are offered as part of a school lunch, with full portions of fruit and or vegetables also made available.
Fruit juice and smoothies are also due to be removed from primary and secondary schools under the new regulations in an effort to reduce children’s sugar intake.
The measures follow extensive consultation and advice from a working group comprising health, nutrition and education experts.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that the changes will help to tackle childhood obesity and provide children with the best start in life.
“Our school food and drink regulations are now over a decade old,” said Mr Swinney.
“With more than 360,000 meals served a day, schools must follow the latest scientific and dietary advice and encourage young people to choose healthy habits for life.
“Every school lunch will now contain more fruit and vegetables, and where food is served elsewhere in school full portions of fruit and vegetables must be on offer.
“We have set maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat which is linked to an increased risk of cancer. This will also reduce exposure to harmful nitrites.
“And we know that one small carton of fruit juice or smoothie contains more than the entire recommended sugar intake for a primary pupil’s lunch, so these drinks will no longer be served in schools.
“These changes will improve our school food, help tackle childhood obesity and give our children the best start in life.”
Claire Hislop, of NHS Health Scotland, stated that the regulations will help to reduce health inequalities in Scotland.
Ms Hislop said: “The technical working group put the health and wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of our recommendations, drawing on the latest evidence and knowledge of current school food practices.
“We welcome the changes to the food and drink provided in schools, which will help create an environment in which children can choose a healthy, balanced diet.
“We know that health in Scotland is improving, but not for everyone. Supporting children and young people at school is an important way of addressing these inequalities.
“Together with a range of other actions to help support a healthy diet, this new guidance will contribute to improving health and reducing health inequalities in Scotland.”