The report, which aims at streamlining the administration of the scheme among other objectives, also proposed that the products distributed to EU schools ‘should originate in the EU and essentially be unprocessed, where applicable organic, locally produced and, if possible, with European quality indications’, with at least 25% of organic products encouraged to be adopted. Products that contain added sugars, fats, salts and sweeteners ‘should not be permitted’, while tabled amendments calling for plant-based beverages to be included in the scheme’s scope were rejected.
In a speech addressing MEPs on May 8, Romanian MEP Carmen Avram who created the report, called on the Parliament to vote in favor of the motion in order to ‘put an end to the exclusion of children with intolerances, allergies and food restrictions’.
She said that 24% of the students interviewed by the European Commission cannot access the EU school scheme due to sickness or a lack of alternatives. “The compromise does not refer to the introduction of a plant-based diet, but to our obligation to supplement the budget in order to create alternatives from the list of already accepted products,” she added.
In her statement, Avram also called on the EC to increase the budget allocated to the distribution of fruit, vegetables, milk and dairy products in order to offset inflationary pressures (‘when it comes to children, there is no room for saving money’) and eliminate the criterion where low-priced offers are prioritized when awarding contracts in order to incentivize small farmers and local producers.
‘Not all is lost’
ProVeg International, the NGO that campaigned for the inclusion of plant-based milks in EU schools, decried the vote as a ‘missed opportunity’ but said a new proposal from the European Commission could offer policymakers another chance to rethink this decision.
“The European Parliament missed an opportunity,” the organization said in a Facebook statement. “They voted against the inclusion of plant-based drinks in schools. But not all is lost: the European Commission will now work on a new proposal. ProVeg calls for adding fortified unsweetened plant-based milk to the School Scheme for children who cannot, or do not want to consume dairy.”
Meanwhile, the European Dairy Association welcomed the adoption of the report.