The French government criticized the mayor of Lyon, after he removed meat from the city’s school lunch menu.
Gregory Doucet, a member of the Green Party, said the move would allow the service to be simplified and expedited amid coronavirus restrictions.
But the government responded, accusing him of risking the children’s health.
“Let’s stop putting ideology on our children’s dishes,” wrote Agriculture Minister Julian Dinomandeh.
“Let’s just give them what they need to grow well. Meat is part of that,” he added in a post on Twitter.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanan said it was an “unacceptable insult” to French farmers and butchers.
He added, “We can imagine that the preaching and elitist policy of vegetables excludes the popular classes. Often many children eat meat only in the school canteen.”
Doucet responded by saying that his right-wing predecessor as mayor took the same measure during the pandemic last year.
Fish and eggs are still on school food menus in Lyon, and Mr Doucet said the menus will be balanced for all children.
Nutritionists say a vegetarian diet is safe for children, but they advise that extra care be taken to ensure they get adequate amounts of protein, iron and other minerals.
Lyon dishes have a global resonance, with a special focus on meat and offal.
But there are signs of changing tastes. Sales of meatless products have been increasing recently, and a 2018 law required schools to provide vegetarian meals one day a week. A vegan restaurant recently made history in France by winning the prestigious Michelin star.
Doucet maintains that this measure is only caused by the epidemic, but he is usually not afraid to challenge French traditions. The “Tour de France” bike race was previously called “masculine and polluting”.
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