For countless years, France has had a reputation for its wholesome cuisine and balanced diet, but the next generation of French diners might be likely to have a penchant for waffles or frites than haricots verts and mangetout.
“Junk food has installed itself in primary and secondary schools, and is developing,” says a study from consumer group UFC-Que Choisir (UFC What to choose).
In light of the fact that 18 percent of French children are obese or overweight, the organization said it was “a disturbing discovery” to find that school cafeterias were increasingly offering pizza, waffles and fizzy drinks next to traditional lunch items.
The study examined the lunch menus of 600 school cafeterias around France, looking for a balance between seven different types of food; raw vegetables, desserts containing raw fruit, cooked vegetables, starchy foods, dairy products, red meat (not minced), and fish.
In 48 of the 600 schools traditional canteens were found to be competing with rival stalls offering fast-food.
UFC-Que Choisir’s study comes after a decree in July 2011 ordering school cafeterias to ensure nutritional balance in the menus, with a particular emphasis on offering five fruits and vegetables a day, and serving up less fat, salt and sugar.
And it's not just in French schools that junk food is proving to be popular tucker.
At the beginning of March, a separate report found that for the first time in history fast food sales in France had overtaken traditional culinary outlets.
“In the land of gastronomy, fast food has become the king,” wrote French magazine Le Point.
The report also revealed the French are the second biggest consumers of pizza in the world after the US.