Primary children in Islington are being denied pork sausages, bacon and ham because of problems checking the diets of Jewish and Muslim children.
Pork has been off the menu since 2011 across the London borough of Islington because schools found it too time-consuming and expensive to ensure young children did not accidentally eat pork counter to their religious beliefs, the Islington Gazette reports.
But the decision has been criticised by borough residents including Christ Godfrey, from 100-year-old Godfrey’s butchers in the Borough. “I feel quite strongly about this,” he said.
“I don’t really feel we should pander too much to other religions. It’s not a bad thing to show consideration, but that shouldn’t restrict the choice of everyone else.
“The kids deserve to have a choice. I don’t think this helps anyone.”
The council explained the decision, saying ,“Children, some as young as four, of different religious and ethnic backgrounds may not know which foods contain pork, or may not realise the importance of avoiding it.
“Monitoring each child, every day, ensuring they are avoiding pork, is an unnecessary cost at a time of tight budgets.”
Councillor Joe Caluori, Islington Council’s member for children and families, said: “By not having pork on the menus in our schools, we can keep down costs and reduce food waste, maximising the school meal budget in tough financial circumstances.
“We meet regularly with our catering contractor and stakeholders and the feedback is that schools are very happy with the food offered by the service.”
While the Local Government Association and Lead Association for Catering in Education expressed surprise at the edict, meat industry experts said they had occasionally heard of similar decisions being made.
But Dr Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association said it was something she was “particularly concerned about”.
“It’s something we have heard of but we wouldn’t say it’s common. It tends to happen in areas where there are large numbers of children from, for example, a Muslim background who wouldn’t eat pork, but we would like there to be a choice. Pork is a very affordable and nutritious meat.”
The council denied it had “banned” pork from primary schools, saying the meat is available in the borough’s secondary schools and officials said they would work with any primary schools that wanted to serve pork products.
Since the government introduced ‘free’ school meals for all pupils in the first three years of primary school last September, the number of children eating from school canteens has risen considerably. But while it was a headline winning policy from the coalition, the reality for those at the coal face has been additional costs and logistical problems, including having to make up financial shortfalls from their own funds and create bigger dining halls.