The guidelines are aimed at improving the choice and healthiness of food and will insist on at least four dishes each day for pupils to choose from including red meat and fish at least once a week.
Chips will only be allowed once a week in the new menus and a dairy product, such as yoghurt, cheese or milk, should be offered on a daily basis.
The minister responsible, Bruno Le Maire, said in an interview on Sunday with newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that France should be setting an example to the world when it comes to food, starting with children.
“Six million children eat in school canteens every day, but half of them are hungry when they leave,” he said. “Nutritional rules are not followed or controlled. We will make them obligatory and we’ll be checking menus.”
“There should be more dairy products, more fruit for dessert and as few chips as possible, with a variation of meat and fish during the week.”
To most foreigners, the typical menu on offer in French schools would not look out of place in a smart restaurant.
Last week, one primary school in Paris was offering its pupils starters including “saucisson à l’ail” (garlic sausage) and “salade de betteraves et d’endives” (beetroot and chicory salad). This was followed by main courses including “poulet basquaise” (chicken with a sauce of tomatoes and sweet peppers) and “rôti de veau” (roast veal). A cheese course followed and then desserts including “entremet au chocolat” (a layered chocolate dessert) and “mirabelles au sirup” (plums in syrup).
Under the new rules, schools will be required to keep “a register showing the meals served in the last three months” as well as documents describing “food products and suppliers.”
Parents’ association FCPE welcomed the changes. Newspaper France Soir reported its president, Jacques Hazan, as claiming the new rules were a “victory” after years spent demanding “guidelines on the nutritional balance of school meals.”