Row over primary school’s ham ban

Wood Fold Primary School, Green Lane, Standish
Wood Fold Primary School, Green Lane, Standish

Parents have hit out at council food chiefs for pulling pork off the menu at a Wigan primary school for health reasons.

Metrofresh - the town hall’s catering arm - said the processed meat served at Wood Fold Primary School in Standish does not meet its high standards.

If changes are to be made we would have preferred to be informed via email or letter as is the school’s usual communication

Emma Appleton

But parents, who are using the hashtag #hamgate to voice their fury on social media, have questioned why they were not consulted on the decision.

Council bosses told the Evening Post that Metrofresh had recently gained a healthy eating accreditation and the offending ham was not “farm-assured.”

Instead, they have replaced it on the school menu with turkey, tuna and egg.

Mum Emma Appleton, speaking on behalf of a group of parents, said: “If changes are to be made we would have preferred to be informed via email or letter as is the school’s usual communication.

“Instead, it was what seemed like an underhand way the children were given an alternative to try.

“We are asking ‘why ham?’ when it is a favourite of many of the children and parents will know of the struggles with those who are fussy eaters.

“Also if it is a healthy eating thing why are they still eating chocolate muffins, cheese pastry rolls and chips?”

The town hall said Metrofresh’s status, the Food For Life Catering Mark, is given to providers who serve “seasonal, traceable, healthier, sustainable, fresh ingredients which are free from trans fats and nasty additives.”

The sliced ham used in the school’s sandwiches was found to be below that standard following an independent inspection, they added.

Mark Tilley, Wigan Council’s assistant director for regulatory services and infrastructure, said: “We took the decision to temporarily remove the ham that did not meet the high quality standards from the school menus and replace it with other fillings that did meet the accreditation such as free range egg, tuna and turkey.

“We are now in the process of sourcing a supplier that can supply us with a Farm Assured ham at an appropriate price.

“We take our school meal delivery service very seriously and feel it is extremely important to provide the freshest and best quality products we can for the health and wellbeing of the children of the borough.

“In the meantime we know that some schools would still like ham to be available so we have informed our cooks that fresh gammon ham can be used as a sandwich filling. This meets the quality assurance standard.”

Ms Appleton added: “Though grateful the council and the school take our children’s health so seriously we, as parents, were not informed of this decision to alter our children’s diets.”

A letter to parents sent this week from Wood Fold head Mrs Gough explained “fresh gammon ham” would be used as a sandwich filling.

It reads: “Wood Fold Primary and MetroFresh take the school meal delivery very seriously and feel it is extremely important to provide the freshest and best quality products and meals we can for the health and wellbeing of the children.”