Key Points:

The regular availability of greasy sausage rolls and other unhealthy foods at school tuckshops ends progressively from today under new Government rules.

The expanded National Administration Guidelines require state and integrated schools to ensure that any foods and drinks they sell are "healthy options".

The guidelines, flagged a year ago, have been welcomed by some principals but are considered "heavy-handed" by others.

While the guidelines are implemented from today, the Ministry of Education expected schools to have been introducing changes all year.

Ministry head Karen Sewell has told schools to prepare to implement them fully by the start of term three on July 21.

The rules were made partly in response to the Government being advised that the current generation of New Zealand children may be the first to die before their parents because of increasing obesity and the problems it can lead to, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Ten per cent of children aged 5-14 were obese and 21 per cent overweight in a national survey in 2002.

Under the new system, foods and drinks are classified into those that should be eaten every day, sometimes or only occasionally. Occasional foods "may only be offered about once a term", the ministry says.

The aim is to reduce intakes of salt, sugar and fats, especially saturated fat and increase consumption of fruit and vegetables and other healthy items. Deep-fried foods, confectionery and sugar fizzy drinks are "automatically" listed by the Health Ministry as occasional items. Meat pies and sausage rolls will typically be occasional foods, unless they are made with reduced fat and salt.

Catering company Spotless provides foods at around 90 schools including 20 where it runs tuckshops. It has been changing menus for some time, increasing items like wraps, salads and pasta, and relegating traditional pies and sausage rolls to occasional status.

"Wraps are becoming more popular. They are particularly trendy with kids," the company's general manager of food services in New Zealand, John Wilkinson, said last night.

Some of the new items were slightly more expensive than the likes of pies and french fries.

Sales had increased at some schools, he said, notably in South Auckland, where community initiatives backed by the district health board and Manukau City Council had increased understanding of good nutrition. But sales had decreased at some schools in higher-income areas and the rents paid by Spotless to the schools had been reduced.

Secondary Principals' Association president Peter Gall said the tuckshop menu had already changed at Papatoetoe High School, where he is principal. Most schools would likewise have aligned their menus with the new rules and he understood that in some cases this had put tuckshops at risk of closure.

"I have heard about that possibility down in Christchurch - there were some that were considering it."

He said secondary school principals would generally have preferred an educational approach to improving nutrition, rather than Government rules which "can seem a bit heavy-handed".

Chocolate and pizza fundraising stopped at his school last year to comply with the new rules, although the Education Ministry says such activities are not banned; instead, it wants schools to consider alternatives and "whether or not selling chocolate sends consistent messages to students and the wider school community".

Takanini School principal Linda Kelly welcomed the new rules as a reinforcement of what her school was already doing. Pupils could buy sandwiches, with fillings like ham and salad, plus muffins and fruit, at relatively low prices. Meat pies, once a staple at the school, were removed from the menu seven years ago.

THE NEW RULES
From today, state and integrated schools must:

* Promote healthy food and nutrition for all students.
* Make only healthy options available where food and beverages are sold on school premises.