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British plan school ban on junk food

BRIGHTON, England — In Britain's schools, chocolate and chips will soon be history.

The government announced plans Wednesday to ban school cafeterias from serving poor-quality hamburgers and hot dogs, and to outlaw vending machines selling soft drinks, chocolate bars and potato chips to students.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly told the annual conference of the governing Labor Party that "the scandal of junk food served every day in school canteens must end." She said the ban would take effect next September.

The move will require new legislation that is likely to limit the amount of sugar, fat and salt in school meals. Current rules stipulate only that school meals must contain "vegetable" and "protein" portions.

The poor quality of school food made headlines in Britain earlier this year thanks to "Jamie's School Dinners," a series featuring "Naked Chef" Jamie Oliver.

Oliver visited school kitchens and found they were dishing out poor-quality processed meat, usually with piles of french fries — at a cost of 65 cents per child per meal.

Oliver launched a campaign — backed by a 270,000-signature petition — for school meals cooked with fresh ingredients.

After the series was broadcast, Kelly promised to spend $500 million on improving the quality of school food.

Nutritionists praised the government's move. Some school principals, however, said it would only drive students to the nearest fast-food outlet and that children's diets would not improve unless their parents provided better food at home.