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  • Jefferson Adams

    School’s Gluten-Free and Halal Meal Policies Drawing Fire 

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      A UK school is facing criticism from angry parents, after banning packed lunches, and offering to gluten-free, vegetarian, and halal options to the children.


    Image: CC--meesh
    Caption: Image: CC--meesh

    Celiac.com 06/30/2018 - It seems there’s a bit of a gluten-free and halal food controversy going on across the pond. For those who don’t know, ‘Halal’ is the Muslim equivalent of what Jewish folks call ‘Kosher.’ Basically, it means food prepared to certain standards and blessed for consumption.

    The Aureus School in Didcot, Oxfordshire, England is being decried by angry parents as “like a dictatorship” after the school banned packed lunches and began serving pupils gluten-free options, including halal meat, water and salad. The ruckus began when the school recently banned students from bringing lunches and snacks from home, and began a program to make sure that “all students have access to a daily nutritious home-cooked family meal.”



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    This is fine in principal, say angry parents, but in practice has become “draconian.” One father, who asked not to be named, said that he and his wife were “thinking of taking [their daughter] out of the school, adding that the situation was “getting silly and more like a dictatorship. Their views are quite extreme.”

    The dad said that "It's about choice. It's supposed to be an inclusive school but they are only catering for one particular religion.” He added that he had tried unsuccessfully to get the policies changed since September.

    So, whereas in days past, lunch might mean whatever mom saw fit to pack, these days at Aureus School lunch means the choice of a hot halal meat meal, hot gluten-free vegetarian meal, a jacket potato, a salad, a pasta pot or a baguette. The school insists that only water be drunk on site because “hydrated brains learn better”.

    The school states that their Halal kitchen policy is simply a move to “celebrate the diversity of our country’s culture,” in addition to providing nutritious food for the children.

    What do you think? A gluten-free and Halal lunch bridge too far, or a good meal for the kids?

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    If this were my daughter's school, I'd be torn between being thrilled that they constantly had a gluten-free option available, being terrified that they'd put a tiny bit of butter on that gluten-free meal (she's also allergic to milk proteins), and being annoyed that she'd be stuck with meatless meals constantly since we couldn't send alternatives and it sounds like they wouldn't be swapping the Halal meat between gluten-free and non-gluten-free options.  But choosing to only offer Halal meat seems like not such a big deal to me.

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    Guest Kosher vs Halal

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    Muslims can eat Kosher meat, but Jews cannot eat Halal meats, as they are not produced the same way. So it would seem in the purpose of to “celebrate the diversity of our country’s culture,” providing Kosher meat would be more appropriate; and for the muslims, providing a good falafel, tahini and mixed salad plate would be appreciated. Plus other students would enjoy this option also.

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    Not okay.  It's one thing to offer healthy meals to the school population - it's another entirely to force your opinion of healthy food and/or dictate to parents their care of their children and basically imply that they are incapable or inept.  I don't go to paranoid extremes, but I do think it's a bad idea to let an organization take choices out of your hands because of 'good intentions', etc.  Such a bad precedent.  Offer it!  Give the choice, but make it a 'choice'.

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    When oh when will schools learn that gluten-free is not Celiac safe!  Does the vegetarian offering contain egg, yeast or dairy gluten cross-reactors?

    There is zero protein in the "vegetarian" gluten-free option.

    This type of "diversity" thinking is "exclusive" to people with certain dietary health restrictions.  Furthermore, public schools cannot violate the "Establishment Clause" commonly known as "Separation of Church & State".  It steps "flat" on the "Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution!

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    "When oh when will schools learn that gluten-free is not Celiac safe!  Does the vegetarian offering contain egg, yeast or dairy gluten cross-reactors?"

    What? Plenty of Celiacs do just fine with egg, yeast (as long as it wasn't brewing yeast contaminated with barley malt), and Dairy. Gluten Free means just that, free of gluten. 

    " Furthermore, public schools cannot violate the "Establishment Clause" commonly known as "Separation of Church & State".  It steps "flat" on the "Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution!""

    I'm not sure this school in the UK has to abide by the US Constitution but the First Amendment only applies to the federal government and not private businesses (such as this private school) anyway. I doubt your kids lunch is considered "free speech". A stronger argument in the US would be the Americans with Disabilities Act which comes a lot closer to providing legal protection for a child with a medical diagnosis. 

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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