You've got to feel sorry for parents these days. Not only do they have to worry about the possibility of little Gwyneth or Guto suffering some life-threatening injury in the playground, but they must negotiate the usual battles of teaching basic manners and social skills, only to find that their offsprings' education is being retarded while the teacher instructs a battalion of junior cavemen and cavewomen that stabbing them with their knives is not the way to eat peas.
Just when they're giving themselves a much deserved pat on the back for not raising the next generation of Liam Gallaghers they're told that, yet again, they've made a complete horlicks of the job.
When I was an ankle biter all my Mum had to help her was a battered copy of Dr. Spock and her common sense, an attribute that is in short supply these days. What she didn't know was that forty-odd years later she would have run the risk of having me taken into care (An overweight child? What a disgrace! Clearly she doesn't have the brains to cook nutritious meals!), while the contents of my lunchbox would give social workers conniption fits.
Morrissey, bless his twisted little heart, will be ecstatic; a bowel cancer action group has been given maximum press coverage to air its new campaign, advising parents not to put ham sandwiches in their children's lunchboxes. Like heroin, early exposure to the evil that is processed meat will result in the nipper becoming addicted, which in its turn raises the chance of bowel cancer later in life. Fact.
Or is it? These infernal food warnings do tend to be a bit of a swings and roundabouts lottery. Admittedly some foods are best avoided altogether, but even so-called healthy products have been exposed as potential killers by scientists. Grapefruit, for instance, is allegedly good for my arteries, but not so fantastic for avoiding breast cancer.
So, no ham, no chorizo, no salami (I can just imagine the howls of derision from my much more sensible Spanish and Italian friends). We already know that sending your children off to school with crisps and chocolate biscuits is the nutritional equivalent of wishing them dead, so what do the experts recommend?
Chopped vegetables. No, don't laugh. As we all know, cooking vegetables removes their nutritional value and, in any case, cold cooked vegetables? Even adults would find the idea pretty nauseating. So raw vegetables – we all know how well they'll be received. In the summer you could substitute salad items I suppose, but since most schools don't provide refrigeration facilities it's unlikely that a piece of cucumber will be quite as inviting at one o'clock as it was at seven-thirty in the morning, when it was cut straight from the fridge.
Any more ideas? Well one bowel cancer action group member posited processed cheese as an acceptable alternative. Processed cheese. Dairylea Cheese Triangles and Slices. Presumably she wasn't in the country when another food expert stated that if you feed your rugrats processed cheese you might as well empty an economy size tub of Polyfilla into their arteries.
Maybe I'm getting old, but surely I can't be the only person who longs for the time when what constituted a child's packed lunch was a personal choice and nobody else's bloody business?