Cucina managing director Steve Quinn has hit back at Jamie Oliver's latest attack on Michael Gove's attitude to school food standards, arguing that it may fool the public into thinking that not much has been achieved in raising nutritional standards in academies.
Oliver launched a blistering attack on Gove in an interview in last week's Observer Food Monthly, in which he said that some of the education secretary's flagship academies are lowering nutrition levels among pupils and profiteering from junk food vending machines because they have been allowed to ignore national standards.
The TV chef and food campaigner said the substantial progress made over recent years in improving pupils' diets risks going into reverse because Gove is allowing new waves of academy schools to ignore nutrient-based standards introduced by the last government in 2008, adding: "When there is a national obesity crisis unfolding around us, I honestly think he is playing with fire."
But Quinn has raised concerns that Oliver's latest criticism of Gove over school food could lead the general public to believe that not much progress has been made in improving nutritional standards, a notion which he is keen to redress.
Quinn said: "I'm a huge fan of what Jamie has, and continues to achieve in raising awareness of the urgent need for better standards of school food. But I'm also worried that this current debate ignores the very high standards which we set in our school restaurants."
Urging the need for strict adherence to basic nutritional standards in all schools, Quinn added: "We are making tremendous strides in our client schools, offering wide choices of delicious, nutritious food which have tripled and quadrupled uptakes of school dinners. Can't these kinds of achievements occasionally share the spotlight?"
Quinn welcomed MP Zac Goldsmith's early day motion to make government guidelines mandatory in all academies, with the added suggestion that successful academy kitchens could be used as models to help inform future legislation.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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