France's Socialist government has come down strongly against towns that have stopped offering children alternatives when school cafeterias serve pork.

In speeches Wednesday to public officials who advise on secularism in schools and government, the country's education and interior ministers said forcing children to eat something forbidden by their religion has nothing to do with France's ideals. The issue is a tense one, and the meeting was intended to help the government-appointed secular mediators do a job that many link to the January terror attacks by French Islamic extremists in Paris.

Education Minister Najat Vallaud Belkacem said separating religion and state was "not up for discussion, not negotiable" — but at the same time she and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve sharply criticized politicians who use it to target French Muslims.