Children as young as five have been told off for bringing yoghurt, muesli bars, salad rolls and juice to school as over-zealous teachers try to enforce healthy eating rules.

Some schools have a policy of confiscating anything deemed junk food - despite parents pleading to be allowed to give their children the occasional treat.

Now, parents have reacted furiously to the lunchbox raids at schools and early childhood centres, saying it is political correctness gone mad.

There is no across-the-board food policy for schools, but many have banned chippies, fizzy drinks and lollies from lunchboxes, and cut down on junk food sales at tuck shops.

Some early childhood centres are telling parents the only things in lunchboxes should be sandwiches, fruit, and water.

But parents said they had the right to give their children treats - particularly when school tuck shops were still selling pies and cookies.

Kirstie Taberner, whose daughter Katie, 5, attends Otahuhu's Fairburn School, has been fighting for weeks to be allowed to put chippies in her lunchbox as a treat.

She had tried wrapping the chips in Gladwrap but they - like so many bags of chippies before them - were confiscated until after school.

"Everything's just gone so bloody PC. I just think it's absolutely ludicrous - it's no use putting in things that your child's not going to eat."

Katie's lunch would usually be two pieces of fruit and a couple of sand-wiches and cookies - but she said chocolate-covered ones were banned - and a handful of nuts.

"Teachers have got no right to say what's in our kids' lunchboxes," Taberner said.

Ministry of Education Senior Manager, Mary Chamberlain, said checking lunchboxes was the respon-sibility of individual schools, and a food policy would be developed by each school's board.

Although the ministry provided resources about healthy eating and food allergy guidelines, these were not mandatory and didn't cover situations where teachers were confiscating food.

Fairburn's food policy was similar to many others across the country.

As well as fizzy drinks, lollies, and chips, "packeted foods" and takeaways were on Fairburn's no-no list.

"If children do bring these foods to school teachers should confiscate the food and return it to the children at 3pm. Repeated offenders should be drawn to the attention of the Deputy Principal or Principal," the policy said.

Principal Francis Nelson said she didn't think the policy was a big issue - parents could still give children treats before and after school, and the move had helped the school win a healthy school Gold award from the National Heart Foundation.

One Christchurch mother told the Herald on Sunday she was shocked when her eight year-old daughter brought her diluted FreshUp juice home and said she had been scared to drink it - other children had warned her that she wasn't allowed it at Burwood School.

"The responsibility lies with the parents, it's common sense. It's a silly parent who sends their child to school with lollies ... but there's a lot worse things than fruit juice."

A school spokesperson said some teachers discouraged juice in lunch-boxes, but it was not yet a firm policy.

Leamington School in Cambridge had a stricter approach.

"Foods we don't want in childrens' lunch boxes are uncooked noodles, energy or fizzy drinks, chocolate/lollies in any form, roll-ups, sweet bars, dipping biscuits and yoghurt for juniors," a newsletter said.

Otari School in Wellington had also cracked down on junk food, asking parents to provide "a wholesome, interesting lunch", while Sheffield School in Canterbury had a policy which stated teachers would check the lunchboxes of new entrants.

Yoghurt was banned from many early childhood centres and schools because it was messy to eat and the pottles were a litter problem. Paraparaumu Beach Kindergarten's rules were even stricter - peanuts, eggs and most forms of baking are banned, largely because of allergy problems.

Yoghurt, baking and biscuits are on lists of healthy lunchbox foods published by dietitian Nikki Hart and the National Heart Foundation.

Hart said confiscating food was "just not appropriate" - schools should send notes home to parents, rather than tell children off.