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British Food Police Punish Parents for Packing Unhealthy Lunches

U.K. school officials are on the hot seat for photographing and grading the content of children's lunchboxes to help promote healthier eating.

Parents whose children attend school in England’s Gloucestershire school district may want to replace the chips and cookies in their child’s lunchbox with apples and carrots.

According to an article published in the Daily Telegraph, officials at 19 schools were involved in a “scheme” in which they secretly opened random lunchboxes, photographed the contents, and scored the lunches for nutritional value, based on factors such as fat, salt and sugar content, and presence of fruit and vegetables. The "food police" then sent notes to parents advising them on how to pack healthier meals, and invited them to come in to discuss their findings.

Although school officials didn’t identify which child each photographed lunch belonged to, they still drew ire from several parents and politicians.

“I applaud the concept of healthy eating and working with pupils and parents. However, this is a step too far, and smacks of Big Brother,” said Jackie Hall, the council’s cabinet member for schools, who instructed school leaders to “cease this practice immediately."

The project, which began six months ago, was devised by officials from Gloucestershire county council, NHS Gloucestershire, and schools to help educate parents on the importance of proving children with healthy food.

“Childhood obesity is a serious concern and has major implications for the individual's health and health services,” said Shona Arora, MD, Gloucestershire's NHS Director of public health.