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Healthy food in school

In the light of recent media attention and Government initiatives, many schools are looking at the link between what their pupils eat or drink and their behaviour. As a result, many have banned pupils from eating sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks at school.

However, schools should also suggest that pupils try healthier alternatives. This is where support staff come in. You may be needed to monitor pupils at lunchtime, during breaks and in after-school clubs. Teaching assistants and lunchtime supervisors are well-placed to encourage children who are hyperactive or who have symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to eat the right kind of food.

Additives to look out for

There are a number of common food additives which can have a substantial effect on children’s behaviour, increasing the likelihood of temper tantrums and hyperactivity. In fact, it is estimated that if additives like those listed below were banned, the rate of children’s hyperactivity would go down from one child in six to one child in 17. It is thought that 38% of the snacks and drinks aimed at children contain these additives:

  • Tartrazine (E102)
  • Sunset Yellow (E110)
  • Carmoisine/Azorubine (E122)
  • Ponceau 4R (E124)
  • Sodium Benzoate (E211).

Preservatives and colourings are key elements to be wary of. According to research by the food firm Organix, colourings that are suspected of changing behaviour were used in over 50% of brands of desserts and sweets aimed at children. Other items which have inappropriate levels of colourings include:

  • children’s milkshakes
  • cereal bars
  • children’s cheeses
  • children’s cereals
  • dried fruit packs
  • children’s drinks
  • crisps and savoury snacks
  • children’s frozen burgers.

Where to find out more

More information for parents and schools is available from The Food Commission, 94 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF, tel 020 7837 2250. A full list of additives with further information about each one is available at the UK Food Guide.

NAPTA, 1-2 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge CB2 8BB — tel 01223 224930 — email info@napta.org.uk