Big Brother row as ‘food police’ secretly photograph schoolchildren’s packed lunches
By Sarah Harris mail
3rd July 2010
Teachers have used ‘Big Brother’ tactics to spy on children’s lunchboxes, it has been revealed. They secretly photographed pupils’ packed lunches over six months and analysed the contents. Staff awarded marks to the food and then showed their findings to outraged parents, offering them advice on how to improve nutrition. St Paul’s primary school in Gloucester checked pupils’ packed lunches for nutritional valueEducation bosses have now put a stop to the scheme in Gloucestershire after discovering the extent of the surveillance. Nineteen primary schools have been using the ‘packed lunch toolkit’, which was devised by Gloucestershire county council and NHS Gloucestershire. Contents were taken out of a random sample of lunchboxes and then photographs taken. Staff rated the contents against set nutritional standards. They looked for high fat, salt and sugary foods as well as fruit and vegetables.
Once the data was collected, a baseline score for the school was calculated. The scheme was devised by the council’s healthy schools team but had not been signed off by councillors. Councillor Jackie Hall, the council’s cabinet member for schools, who is also a mother, said she did not know about the scheme. ‘I applaud the concept of healthy eating and working with pupils and parents,’ she said. ‘However, this is a step too far and smacks of Big Brother.’ Among the schools taking part was St Paul’s Primary School in Gloucester. Parent Sharon Billingham said she packs healthy lunches for her son Callum, seven. However, she felt the lunch toolkit was a breach of privacy. Health alert: Packed lunches were checked for sugary treats She said: ‘I guess if we were given notice that it was happening then that would be OK but I haven’t heard anything.’ But Yvette Gayle, whose nine-year-old daughter Renee Dougan attends the school, said she didn’t mind. It might encourage parents to pack a healthier lunch for their kids anyway,’ she said. Cheryl Ridler, an education co-ordinator at the school, said the scheme has led to ‘a definite improvement in the quality of food’ brought in. ‘All the parents were very positive about it and we did it in a very nice and careful way, and in no way demanding and intrusive,’ she added.
However, Margaret Morrissey, of family pressure group Parent OutLoud, condemned the scheme as ‘despicable’ and ‘unforgiveable’. ‘It’s Big Brother gone absolutely mad and if it were my child, I’d sue the school,’ she said.
Health chiefs have insisted that it was a way of monitoring healthy eating. Gloucestershire NHS director of public health Dr Shona Arora said: ‘Childhood obesity is a serious concern. Parents are perfectly placed to use their judgment and they are the most important people in helping their children to achieve a balanced diet.’ A Gloucestershire council spokesman refused to disclose its healthy schools budget, which is shared with NHS Gloucestershire. The audit was one of dozens of projects and cost only the time taken to draw up the toolkit, she added. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1291470/Big-Brother-row-food-police-secretly-