Stockholm schools in butter ban backlash

After thousands of children, parents, teachers and principals across Stockholm have expressed their outrage against the capital’s butter ban in schools, the city administration has decided to bring the spread back.

Stockholm schools in butter ban backlash

According to the city councillor for schools, Lotta Edholm, the kids and their parents are right to be upset:

“I have tried to communicate that the schools can serve both butter and low fat spread if they want. The cleverest solution would be to let the students choose. But unfortunately the message I wanted to get across has got lost along the way,” said Edholm to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

The reason for the initial change was a decision by the Stockholm City local authority in charge of education (Utbildningsnämnden) to make schools adhere to guidelines issued by the National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket).

Behind the decision are tightened rules in legislation regarding schools serving nutritious food. To make things simpler for the schools, the local authority chose to make the guidelines from the National Food Agency be the guiding rule for all schools in the area.

The majority of Stockholm schools therefore removed the more butter-based spreads and replaced them with low fat alternative Becel, a controversial choice due to some scientists linking it with heart-disease and cancer, or other low fat spreads.

But according to Lotta Edholm the guidelines never meant a ban on butter in schools.

“My interpretation of the guidelines has from the beginning been that schools can serve both butter and marge. The School’s Inspectorate’s (Skolinspektionen) interpretation is different. And I find it a little strange that the Inspectorate chooses to blindly listen to the National Food Agency,” Edholm said.

According to Edholm the kids should have the choice between the butter and the low-fat spread and she repudiated any claim that the butter was removed due to Stockholm children being overweight and needing to diet.

“No, they definitely don’t need to diet. If we could just have been able to sort this out ourselves without listening to the School’s Inspectorate I don’t think anyone, politician or official, would have even thought of removing the butter in favour of marge,” said Edholm to the paper.

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How Switzerland plans to beat its butter shortage

Switzerland is facing a butter shortage “for the first time in years”, thanks mainly to a surge in cheese production which left little milk at the table for butter producers.

(Illustration) A butter producer gets up close and personal with the good stuff in neighbouring France. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP
To make sure Swiss bread doesn’t go unbuttered, the country will (temporarily) change laws to bring butter across the border. 

The Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture said midweek that the country’s butter stores were running dangerously low, with only 2,300 tonnes in reserve – although this amount is up from a low of 1,500 tonnes earlier in Spring. 

In a press release, the Office said “for the first time in years, there is an insufficient supply of Swiss butter for the (local) market.”

“A shortage of butter supply, especially at the end of the year, must be prevented.”

READ: Here's how Switzerland is planning to avoid coronavirus food shortages 

The government was responding to an application from the Swiss milk industry, asking that import quotas be temporarily relaxed to allow more butter across the border. 

An additional 1,000 tonnes will now be allowed across the border, around 2.3 percent of the total sold in Switzerland each year. 

From coffee to nuclear fuel: What you need to know to understand Switzerland's strategic stockpiles 

The exemption will be granted for 2020 only. 

A cheesy excuse

Unlike other supply shortages experienced across the country in recent months, the lack of butter isn’t due only to the coronavirus – although plenty of lockdown-inspired baking is unlikely to help. 

Instead, higher cheese production has meant that less milk fat has been available to produce butter in recent months. 

Milk producers make more money from cheese production than from butter, meaning that when butter’s turn comes around, the pail is dry (or at least a little too empty).