Reporting from Paris, Kim Willsher with the Los Angeles Times makes the stunning claim that the French government has banned school and college cafeterias nationwide from serving ketchup with any food but — get this — French fries.
“France must be an example to the world in the quality of its food, starting with its children,” said Bruno Le Maire, the agriculture and food minister.
The image of a French chef cringing at the sight of someone smothering a filet mignon in ketchup comes to mind, but this ban is ridiculous. If students can pour ketchup on French Fries, who is going to stop a student from pouring ketchup on any other food unless someone turns them in to the ketchup gestapo.
It seems European governments have a penchant for banning and taxing foods they deem undesirable: a few days ago Denmark became the first country in the world to impose a fat tax to limit the population’s consumption of fatty foods such as milk, butter, eggs and meat.
Jacques Hazan, president of the Federation of School Pupils’ and College Students’ Parents Councils, told the Times of London that the new regulations are a “victory.”
Willsher notes recommendations to ban ketchup were made by government researchers more than four years ago, but the decree took effect only this week, a month after the start of the school year, and applies immediately to all cafeterias in schools and government buildings except those serving fewer than 80 meals a day.
And cafeterias must keep records for school health officials of what has been served.
The recommendation to ban ketchup was also made in conjunction with calls for school officials to cut down on fatty foods and introduce more vegetables, fruit and dairy products.
French schoolchildren are not allowed to bring home-prepared lunches to school and must either eat in the cafeteria or go home for lunch. School and college cafeterias serve 1 billion meals a year, according to the government.
“Six million children eat in canteens every day, but 1 in 2 of them is still hungry when they leave,” said Le Maire, the agriculture and food minister. “Nutritional rules are neither applied or controlled. We are making them obligatory and we will be keeping an eye on the menus.”
Christophe Hebert, chairman of the National Association of Directors of Collective Restaurants told the Times of London that canteens have a public health mission and also an educative mission.
“We have to ensure that children become familiar with French recipes so that they can hand them down to the following generation.”
“We absolutely have to stop children from being able to serve those sorts of sauces to themselves with every meal,” said Hebert. “Children have a tendency to use them to mask the taste of whatever they are eating.”