French Schools Ordered to Ration Ketchup to Protect Cultural Heritage

French schools were rationing ketchup in their cafeterias to help children keep their cultural identity, under a new government decree.

The rule came into force in most primary and secondary schools Monday and restricts how often the condiment can be served.

School lunchrooms can serve dressings such as ketchup and mayonnaise only with certain dishes, such as fries, which are now allowed only once a week. The decree also bans schools from serving ketchup with traditional French meals, such as beef bourguignon and roast veal with blue cheese sauce.

The edict aims to ensure that the pupils stay connected to their cultural heritage -- and to prevent them from being lured by fattening junk food.

"Canteens [cafeterias] have a public health mission but also an educative mission," according to Christophe Hebert, chairman of the National Association of Directors of Collective Restaurants. "We have to ensure that children become familiar with French recipes so that they can hand them down to the following generation."

Hebert added, "They need to know that in France food means conviviality, sharing and having a good time at the table. We absolutely have to stop children from being able to serve those sorts of sauces to themselves with every meal."

The new order also stipulates that schools must offer four or five dishes each day -- including a dairy product, such as cheese or yogurt -- and that broccoli and spinach must be encouraged. Bread also must be freely available in unlimited quantities.