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How to keep oily fish on the school menu

Balancing cost with compliance: How to keep oily fish on the school menu

Posted by Ed Brown | April 04, 2017 | Catering & hospitality

How to keep oily fish on your school’s menu

Recent sharp price increases in oily fish are causing a dilemma for many school-catering managers, as The School Food Standards (2015) mandate that oily fish be served at least once every 3 weeks in both primary and secondary schools.

This means that school caterers do not have a choice but must serve oily fish in order to comply with the Regulations. Although the legislation does not apply in the independent sector, private schools are advised to offer oily fish once a week as part of lunch and once a week as part of the evening meal.

>Why is important to serve oily fish?

The consumption of oily fish is encouraged because it is a good source of key nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, and Vitamin D, which all help with keeping bones strong and healthy.  But most importantly, oily fish is the best source of the unique long chain omega 3 fatty acids, which are said to help protect against heart disease and also play a role in brain health. 

>What do we mean by oily fish?

Oily fish is better known to most of us as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, carp, pilchards, sardines, sprats, whitebait, trout, fresh or frozen tuna.

Significantly I have to point out that canned tuna does not count as oily fish, as the canning process removes the all important fatty acids so an alternative is needed. Many caterers who offer canned tuna as a way of getting children to get their portion of oily fish often miss this fact.

However, canned sardines, pilchards, mackerel and salmon all count as oily fish!

> Top tips to keep oily fish on your menu

  • Buy fish pie mix as it works out cheaper

  • Use frozen fish instead of fresh as the all important omega 3’s will not be destroyed in the freezing process

  • Use an oily fish in smaller quantities within composite dishes such as fish pie as the dish can be made up with more economical white fish and bulked out with vegetables and potatoes

  • Put stir-fries and fishcakes on your menu, as both dishes tend to be more popular than fillets of fish, and contain a smaller quantity of the oily fish

  • Try canned salmon mixed with cream cheese in jacket potatoes, wraps, baguettes and even as a pasta topping

  • Include flacked mackerel fillets on your salad counter

  • Use herb and spice infused oils to mask the strong fish flavour (most popular are lemon, parsley, basil, dill, garlic, chive, oregano, coriander to name but a few.

> How to manage food prices?

With food prices being on the increase - keeping specific food items on the menu is becoming more difficult and a real challenge for school caterers.  Pelican’s procurement experts have the knowledge and the expertise to achieve best value from the market for all your products.

Please get in touch: call 01252 705200 or

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