Sandwiches have been taken off the lunch menu in all Aberdeen schools – sparking a storm of protest from parents, staff and politicians.
Catering workers were told to stop serving the snacks to pupils, although youngsters can still bring their own in a packed lunch if they want.
The city council said last night that the decision had been taken because of a looming European Union (EU) directive on labelling packaged food.
Earlier in the day, however, the authority said it was an effort to move away from “an unhealthy fast food culture” and help meet a Scottish Government requirement for balanced school meals.
In a further twist, it emerged that sandwiches were still being served to councillors in the town house canteen.
The council was roundly criticised last night, and there were calls for leaders to “abandon” the plan at the earliest opportunity.
The change to school menus was first raised by Tommy Campbell, regional organiser for the Unite union, who said catering workers were complaining about the new instructions from senior management.
Mr Campbell said: “This is absolutely outrageous and I fully support the staff and the children themselves in their objections to this.
“They are being denied the opportunity to have a sandwich while other staff at Marischal College and the town house can have one.
“It is one rule for one and another rule for the rest.
“I am asking the chief executive to intervene immediately, to rescind the ban so that sandwiches can be back on the menu in all schools.”
Labour councillor Neil Cooney, convener of communities, housing and infrastructure, said the decision was based on an EU directive.
He said: “All councils will have to comply with an EU directive which will require food businesses as of December 2015 to be able to label packaged food, demonstrating that it has protected consumers from 14 recognised allergens.
“As a result the city council’s catering services took the decision to remove cold sandwiches from the menu.
“Parents can still provide their children with a packed lunch containing a sandwich if they choose to do so.”
The council earlier said it was a Scottish Government requirement for school meals to achieve a “balanced and set nutritional value”.
A spokesman said the decision was made for a number of reasons, including “a desire to move away from the unhealthy fast food culture and the resultant medical outcomes” and to provide a “hot rather than cold meal” to pupils.
A council spokesman said that local authorities in Angus, Dundee, Clackmannanshire, West Dumbartonshire, South Ayrshire and Perth and Kinross also do not serve sandwiches.
But SNP group leader Callum McCaig said the council should rethink the plan immediately.
Mr McCaig said: “The council is doing itself no favours in imposing a pretty authoritarian ban on the humble sandwich.
“The public are routinely outraged when they see public bodies acting as the food police and dictating what can and cannot be eaten.
“There can be no sensible justification for banning sandwiches that we can see and really this just needs to be abandoned as soon as possible.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill said he would be seeking clarification from council officials on why sandwiches had been taken off the menu.
Conservative Ross Thomson blamed the EU directive, and said it was “red tape gone mad”.
The decision to remove sandwiches from the school lunch menu was described as “ill-thought-out” by a parents’ group leader last night.
Alex Nicoll, chairman of the Aberdeen Parent Council Forum (APCF), said he was unaware that the local authority had stopped serving the snacks to pupils.
Mr Nicoll also said he could not understand why sandwiches would be outlawed as part of a move towards more healthy eating.
The city council said that it wanted to deter a “fast food culture” among school pupils.
Mr Nicoll said: “I don’t think that this has been well thought through, what is wrong with brown bread with healthy fillings?
“I can see the argument, on winter days when it is cold, for kids to have a hot meal, but life is not that simple.
“Many people have a snack for lunch and I’m sure that applies for many secondary school pupils. I know that I would consider the sandwiches I would make my own son to be healthy – I think most reasonable people would think the same thing.”
Mr Nicoll, who has sat on the council’s education committee as a parents’ representative for the last three years, said he was surprised that the change to the menu had not been discussed at committee level first.
“There doesn’t seem to have been any consultation about it, any attempt to find out what the majority of parents would find acceptable. ”