SCHOOLS across Scotland will limit the amount of processed red meat served to pupils under new rules aimed at boosting health.

Moves set to be introduced from autumn next year will also see fruit juices and smoothies removed from primaries and secondaries to help reduce sugar intake.

Meanwhile, a minimum of two portions of vegetables and a portion of fruit will be offered as part of a school lunch.

Education Secretary John Swinney said there are more than 360,000 meals served in schools every day, and they must “follow the latest scientific and dietary advice and encourage young people to choose healthy habits for life”.

He said: “Every school lunch will now contain more fruit and vegetables, and where food is served elsewhere in school full portions of fruit and vegetables must be on offer.

“We have set maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat which is linked to an increased risk of cancer. This will also reduce exposure to harmful nitrites.

“And we know that one small carton of fruit juice or smoothie contains more than the entire recommended sugar intake for a primary pupil’s lunch, so these drinks will no longer be served in schools.

“These changes will improve our school food, help tackle childhood obesity and give our children the best start in life.”

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The changes follow a campaign by The Herald on Sunday to rid schools and hospitals of processed meats containing preservatives such as nitrites, which have been linked to bowel cancer.

An investigation by the paper found most councils still used so-called “nitro” processed meat – bacon, ham, gammon, corned beef and pepperoni – in school meals.

Scotland will now become the first part of the UK to set limits as part of a new initiative to make school food healthier. It comes amid efforts to improve diets and halve childhood obesity by 2030.

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The latest measures follow extensive consultation and advice from a working group comprising health, nutrition and education experts.

Claire Hislop, organisational lead for diet and healthy weight at NHS Health Scotland, said: “We welcome the changes to the food and drink provided in schools, which will help create an environment in which children can choose a healthy, balanced diet. We know that health in Scotland is improving, but not for everyone. Supporting children and young people at school is an important way of addressing these inequalities.”