School canteens are breaking the rules by selling sugary drinks and lollies, says a nutrition expert who is calling for a revamp of guidelines and controls.
Many parents don’t realise that there is almost a complete ban on confectionary, says Dr Kieron Rooney, a senior lecturer in biochemistry and exercise physiology at the University of Sydney.
Some states allow lollies and chocolates only once or twice a term but the rules are not enforced, he says.
Another concern is that school guidelines are out of sync with the latest national dietary guidelines, which recognise that sugar leads to obesity and dental cavities.
Liquid breakfast and other sugar-sweetened products are allowed because the guidelines focus only on the kilojoules, saturated fat, salt and fibre content of food and drinks, says Dr Rooney.
“The canteen rules are outdated.”
The World Health Organisation says no more than 10 per cent and preferably five per cent of a person’s diet should come from added sugar.
For a child that’s about three teaspoons of added sugar a day.
“Natural sugar in foods like fruit and dairy is perfectly fine. But people should be avoiding added sugar in processed food as much as they can,” says Dr Rooney, who is giving a public lecture at the university on March 26.
He says the word “natural” has been hijacked by processed food manufacturers.
“There is absolutely nothing natural about taking something that was grown in earth, extracting it, boiling it, breaking it down, crystallising it and then putting it into a bunch of jelly.
“My talk focuses on the failure of federal and state governments to update canteen rules in line with the latest dietary guidelines.
“Lollies are banned. However, you can take some low-fat milk and add sugar to it and that’s perfectly fine.
“Canteen guidelines are failing our kids because they don’t comply with the 2013 Australian dietary guidelines.”