No more ketchup for kids!? That's what French schools have decided…

Many of you might have heard the news that the French government has banned ketchup in all elementary schools. Children will be able to have it once a week, on their French fries (which will also only be served once a week).

Most of the English-language media coverage gives the impression that the French government is ‘interfering’ too much with what children eat (particularly when you consider that French children are not allowed to bring their own lunches, and there are no vending machines in schools). I disagree. School is a place where our children learn life skills: how to read, how to write, how to do math and…how to eat properly. With its high salt and sugar content, ketchup is not healthy for children. And if children slather their food in ketchup, they’re not learning to enjoy the taste of different foods. So bravo to the French, in my opinion.

We all know that ketchup is yummy. I have a serious weakness for fries and ketchup, and so do my daughters. I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t eat ketchup at all, but that they shouldn’t be eating it every day for lunch.

Do you think we should ban ketchup in schools?

5 thoughts on “No more ketchup for kids!? That's what French schools have decided…

  1. Pingback: French School Lunches: The good, the bad, and the ugly | Karen Le Billon

  2. Pingback: Yummy French Kids School Lunches…this week in Brest! | Karen Le Billon

  3. For what is worth, schools at the elementary level where I live don’t provide ketchup except if something is on the menu that one would traditionally expect ketchup to go with, like a hamburger.

    I also believe that communities can make up their own standards about what is proper, like France. Would I want to want to see a decision like that made in schools where i live without community discussion…no I would not.

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  4. You’ve really hit on the key issue, Kate: it’s all about moderation, or “treating treats as treats” (another Michael Pollan quote, this time from his book Food Rules). Teaching kids to enjoy treats, but to know what is an appropriate amount, is a good thing. Demonizing food isn’t healthy either (and the French don’t do this–which is why they still allow ketchup once per week). I guess the issue is whether all kids can really eat something like ketchup in moderation (I suppose the French felt that they weren’t).

    The nutritional issues are interesting too: there are guidelines for sugar and salt intake (which aren’t subjective, in my opinion, as you can quantify intake), but it depends on what else the child is eating. So ‘how much’ of a food is definitely an individual determination. But the French are much more willing than we are to have general ‘food rules’ that apply to everyone.

    Another interesting (and the most important) objection the French have to ketchup has nothing to do with nutrition. They actually reject it because it masks flavors: if kids eat ketchup with every meal (and, in particular, if they put it on all of their vegetables), the worry is that they’ll learn to like the taste of ketchup, but not the actual foods that they are eating. Food education in France is about teaching kids to like different flavors and tastes, and the argument in favor of banning ketchup was centered in part on this. French kids certainly do eat a much greater variety of things than North American kids, from what I’ve seen. Seems surprising to us, I know.

    Thanks for your comments, Kate!

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  5. I don’t think schools need to ban ketchup. While I’d agree that ketchup is a high salt/sugar food, I don’t think my kids ever eat more than a tablespoon or two….one tablespoon is 15 calories with 4 grams of sugar. If we are going to characterize a food as unhealthy, I think it is important to take into account the amount of the food that is typically eaten.

    As far as how food should be properly eaten properly, in many ways isn’t that a subjective determination?

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