France Bans Ketchup In School Cafeterias

French schoolchildren won’t be allowed to put ketchup on anything but French Fries anymore:

First France built a wall around its language to protect it from pernicious Anglo-Saxon invaders. Now it is throwing up a shield against another perceived threat to its culture and civilization: ketchup.

In an effort to promote healthful eating and, it has been suggested, to protect traditional Gallic cuisine, the French government has banned school and college cafeterias nationwide from offering the American tomato-based condiment with any food but — of all things — French fries.

As a result, students can no longer use ketchup on such traditional dishes as veal stew, no matter how gristly, and boeuf bourguignon, regardless of its fat content.

Moreover, French fries can be offered only once a week, usually with steak hache, or burger. Not clear is whether the food police will send students to detention if they dip their burgers into the ketchup that accompanies their fries.

“France must be an example to the world in the quality of its food, starting with its children,” said Bruno Le Maire, the agriculture and food minister.


The rules leave young ketchup lovers here little choice. French schoolchildren are not allowed to bring home-prepared lunches to school and must either eat in the cafeteria or go home for lunch. School and college cafeterias serve 1 billion meals a year, according to the government.

Le Maire said the changes were introduced because common sense rules on nutrition have not been followed in the nation’s schools.

“Six million children eat in canteens every day, but 1 in 2 of them is still hungry when they leave,” he said. “Nutritional rules are neither applied or controlled. We are making them obligatory and we will be keeping an eye on the menus.”

The government acknowledges on its website that fewer than half of college and high school students think the food in school cafeterias is good.

Maybe they need to put some ketchup on it.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. DC Loser says:

    As a result, students can no longer use ketchup on such traditional dishes as veal stew, no matter how gristly, and boeuf bourguignon, regardless of its fat content.

    What I find scandalous is that French schoolchildren get to eat veal stew and beef bourguignon in their schools. Can we have that here too?

  2. john personna says:

    And we count it as a vegetable serving. Who is crazy?

  3. @john personna:

    Actually we don’t, and it turns out that we never really did

  4. KipEsquire says:

    @DC Loser: Not if Jamie Oliver has anything to say about it.

  5. Herb says:

    I know the feeling. They banned Snickers bars at work.

    Actually, the vending machine dropped Snickers bars in favor of granola bars, but you know, that’s pretty much the same thing as a ban.

  6. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m pretty sure you link says it was, actually:

    Would-be realists on the panel reasoned that if they could count ketchup as a vegetable they could meet federal standards without having to throw away so many lima beans, thereby saving money while having no impact on the kids. Looked at in a certain light, it made sense. Ketchup wasn’t the only newly permissible substitute: pickle relish and conceivably other condiments could also count as vegetables (precise interpretation was left to state officials); protein sources like tofu or cottage cheese could replace meat; and corn chips, pretzels, and other snacks could replace bread.

  7. @john personna:

    Not really, because it says this:

    The mortified administration withdrew the proposal and the USDA official in charge of the program was transferred, a move widely interpreted as a firing.

    And this:

    A few months later the USDA adopted for preschools and elementary schools a more sensible policy already used in high schools, called “offer vs. serve”–schools still had to offer the five meal components, but students could refuse any two. In the 90s, the Clinton administration got little grief when it proposed counting salsa as a vegetable, as properly made salsa has more nutritional heft than sugar-laden ketchup.

    It also says this:

    In mid-1981, only a few months after Reagan took office, Congress cut $1 billion from child-nutrition funding and gave the USDA 90 days–the blink of an eye, for the federal bureaucracy–to come up with new standards that would enable school districts to economize, in theory without compromising nutrition.


    Unfortunately for Reagan, the 90-day deadline allowed no time for higher review

    So basically what happened is mid-level USDA people came up with this idea and it was withdrawn as soon as it was released.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    I used to attend French schools back in the early 60’s. We were served at table. We brought our own petit pain, and they would serve us a nice soup, followed often by a ragout or a slice of pate. This was in a poor corner of France at a time when the country was still recovering from WW2.

  9. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think the full saga is still a counterpoint to the French. So our government only proposed ketchup as a vegetable, and backed off in a storm of protest.

    “enable school districts to economize, in theory without compromising nutrition”

    And that is where ketchup-as-vegetable came in … no connection there.

  10. Yes much better to give the kids salsa like Bill Clinton did.

  11. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    A good salsa is 100% fresh vegetables, with herbs and lime juice, and does not have added sugar or anything strange. Actually.

    Now, if it’s what you easterners call “salsa” maybe not.

  12. @michael reynolds:

    I used to attend French schools back in the early 60′s.

    And suddenly it all makes sense.

  13. @john personna:

    That’s not salsa, that’s pico de gallo

  14. PD Shaw says:

    @michael reynolds: I had Freedom Fries yesterday at a diner out by the national guard base. mmmm… No ketchup to dilute the savory essences of liberty.

  15. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I googled “fresh salsa” and yes, many recipes resemble pico de gallo.

    … but checking my cupboard, the bottled (cooked) salsas I have (been given, usually at Christmas for some reason) are all also vegetables, lemon or lime juice, and spices.

  16. @john personna:

    What I consider true salsa is fresh vegetables too, but it has to be pureed (or if you want to get really authentic, ground in a traditional mortar and pestle). My personal favorite is salsa negra, but salsa roja is good to.

    Neither of these is the thing you normally see sold as “salsa” in jars at stores. That’s actually picante sauce.

  17. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Lately I skip the salsa and just eat the jalapenos they throw in the fryer (naked, unbreaded) and sprinkle with salt. Low brow, I know … never thought to count it as a serving of vegetables though 😉

  18. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    It’s my deep, dark secret: Acquired Frogginess Syndrome.

  19. Michael M says:

    Well, on the one hand it’s slightly understandable, on the other hand, it’s kind of nanny-state. I think they should all watch this in France:

  20. Trumwill says:

    @john personna: “Proposed and didn’t do” is not a counterpoint to “did.”

  21. Racehorse says:

    About as insane and intrusive as the ban on Happy Meals in San Francisco. Big Brother will soon arrest you if you have twinkies, arrest Girl Scouts for selling cookies, and confiscate any cheeze doodles in your grocery bags.

  22. RW Rogers says:

    IIRC, once upon a time, mayonnaise was the standard accompaniment for fresh french fries bought on the street in France.

  23. Racehorse says:

    My top favorite fries:
    5 Guys
    Chick Fil a

    What are yours?

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @RW Rogers:
    Oui, c’est vrai.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    Agree on 5 guys and Wendy’s but I’d put Mac’s in 3rd place.

  26. @Racehorse:

    I don’t really eat a lot of fries, but my favorite is Red Robin (although that’s not really in the fast food segment). Another really good fry place is Nathan’s, although they’re often hard to find.

    In terms of best burgers:

    1. Elevation Burger (and the rest aren’t even close)
    2. Red Robin
    3. Ruby’s Diner
    4. Wendy’s
    5. Sonic

  27. @michael reynolds:

    MacDonald’s used to be the best fries, but they ruined them when they switched from beef tallow to vegetable oil and stopped putting salt on them. Same with their burgers; they have the fat content so low now it’s like eating a piece of rubber.

  28. john personna says:


    “Proposed and didn’t do” is not a counterpoint to “did.”

    But I can still laugh that we “proposed” at the federal level, and people can say “yeah, but we only proposed …”‘

    WTF, you think that was a high point of nutrition or government?

    (It’s certainly enough that people will remember it, and joke about it, for another 20 years.)