A UK survey has revealed today that nine out of ten children's school lunchboxes contain foods that are too high in saturated fat, salt and sugar. 

The survey, carried out by the Food Standards Agency, suggested that at lunchtime, children are eating as much as twice the recommended amount of sugar, close to half of their daily recommended salt intake, and are also having high levels of saturated fats.

The survey looked at 556 home-packed lunches for children from 24 primary schools across the UK and revealed that up to 40% of the saturated fat content in the lunchboxes came from butter and other fat spreads, up to 25% from cheddar cheese, up to 19% from crisps and up to 14% from chocolate bars and biscuits. Salt tended to come from foods such as white bread, ham and crisps and the higher levels of sugar came mainly from fizzy drinks, ready-to-drink juice drinks and chocolate-covered bars and biscuits.

Of children who take a packed lunch to school, 80% tend to have similar items in their lunchbox every day, the survey showed.

The survey also revealed that the majority of packed lunches would not meet the minimum standards set for primary school meals. In fact, of the surveyed lunchboxes, only 21% met these current national standards, which state that school meals must offer at least:

  • one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables
  • one portion of milk or dairy item
  • one portion of meat, fish or other protein source
  • one portion of a starchy food, such as bread, pasta or rice

The most popular food items found in the children's lunchboxes were a white bread sandwich, which was found in 87% of packed lunches, followed by crisps (71%), a biscuit or chocolate bar (60%) and dairy items such as yoghurts or fromage frais (48%). Fewer than half the packed lunches contained a portion of fruit.