In a move that has fired up parents, teachers in the UK have won the right to inspect pupils' lunchboxes and confiscate unhealthy snacks.

"Schools have common law powers to search pupils, with their consent, for items," Schools Minister Lord Nash said.

"There is nothing to prevent schools from having a policy of inspecting lunch boxes for food items that are prohibited under their school food policies.

"A member of staff may confiscate, keep or destroy such items found as a result of the search if it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances."

Advertisement

But not everyone agreed.

Iain Austin, a Labour member of the Commons education committee, said: "With Britain tumbling down the international league tables and with a generation entering the work force with less literacy and numeracy than the generation retiring, you would have thought that teachers might have better things to do than rummage through children's crisps and fruit."

The row over packed lunches erupted after Cherry Tree Primary in Colchester banned junk food.

Outraged parents said this was unfair because the school's menu offered "unhealthy" food including high sugar desserts like pancakes, cookies and mousse.

Vikki Laws, 28, said her daughter - six-year-old Tori - was not allowed to eat her sausage snack. It was confiscated and returned at the end of the day with a note from teachers. She said another parent was warned not to give her child Scotch eggs.

Parents were also angry at Manley Park Primary in Manchester when it banned cereal bars despite offering pizza, chocolate fudge cake and fish fingers for lunch. Two mothers claimed staff confiscated a nut cereal bar and a packet of 100 per cent fruit chews because of their high sugar content.

It reignited the debate about the quality of school meals, at a time when NHS chiefs have warned obesity is the biggest threat to the nation's health. The Department for Education is urging schools to consult parents first to "ensure that any adopted policy is clearly communicated".

In response to a parliamentary question, Lord Nash, said: "It would be good practice for the pupil to be present during an inspection and for a second member of staff to be present if any items are to be confiscated".

Advertisement

Official figures show that around 20 per cent of children aged four and five are classed as overweight.

But, by the time they leave primary school aged 11, the figure rises to around 33 per cent.

- Daily Mail