Red Alert: Sausages, Ham and Cheese Sandwiches Restricted From WA Schools Over Health Concerns

Several new items are now considered ’red‘ category of foods—meaning they are not deemed ’least healthy.’
Red Alert: Sausages, Ham and Cheese Sandwiches Restricted From WA Schools Over Health Concerns
Sandwich with ham, cheese and bechamel sauce. (DariaKM/Shutterstock)
Monica O’Shea

Parents in Western Australia have expressed confusion after the humble ham and cheese sandwich was taken off school canteen menus.

The state’s health department has updated a traffic light system for foods, placing multiple meat items, including ham, in the “red” category rather than amber.

Foods placed in the red category cannot be served at canteens under the colour-code system that has been in schools for years.

A Western Australian Department of Health’s School, Food, and Drink criteria places processed red meat including ham, sausages, and frankfurters in the red category.

Pies and sausage rolls, along with hot potato, sweet potato chips, and wedges are also now in the red category, along with chips and savoury biscuits such as salty crackers.

“You will notice some changes in the classifications of some food and drink. To reduce children’s exposure to junk food in schools, most amber discretionary foods will be reclassified red,” the fact sheet (pdf) states.

Fruit juice slushies, cakes, desserts, sweet pastries and commercial sweet biscuits have also now been placed in a red category.

In addition, some items now must be served with “at least half a serve of salad or vegetables. These include burger patties, rissoles, red meat and fish or seafood such as chicken nuggets.”

A FAQ sheet (pdf) states the healthy food and drink procedure at school canteens has now changed, and principals must make sure the canteen menu promotes a “wide range of healthy food.”

Red items must not be on the menu, other than “selected” items including ham that can be offered two days per week.

“Where an amber item has been reclassified as an item it may be included on the menu and included in your amber count. These ‘selected red items’ may only be offered on the same two days a week as amber savoury commercial products,” the fact sheet says.

“This cannot be applied retrospectively. Once a red item has been removed from a menu, it cannot be re-introduced.”

Green items must make up 60 percent of the menu, while amber items account for 40 percent of the menu.

Canteen Association Says Parents Are Confused

WA School Canteen Association CEO Megan Sauzier told NCA NewsWire parents were “confused” by the changes, and said options needed to be easier to understand.
“They need things that are easy to prepare and when that (a ham-and-cheese sandwich) is served alongside a broad range of other healthy green items, like fruits and vegetables and meals and pastas, then ham as an amber, we see as being acceptable,” she said.
Paediatric dietitian Dr. Kyla Smith told Nine News, “We don’t need to demonise individual foods.”

“We’re not serving ham on its own. We’re serving ham alongside other foods like cheese, on wholemeal bread,” she said.

“I don’t envy canteen managers at the moment, I think that would be a really hard gig to find that balance.”

However, Western Australian Premier Roger Cook expressed support for the changes, saying that, “It’s not to say you can’t have a ham and cheese toastie, it’s just to say it’s a treat.”

Monica O’Shea is a reporter based in Australia. She previously worked as a reporter for Motley Fool Australia, Daily Mail Australia, and Fairfax Regional Media.
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