Caterers fear they will lose cash in secondary schools when the Government's nutritional guidelines kick in next month.
They are concerned the overnight ban on confectionery items and junk food, coupled with a reluctance to enforce a locked-gate policy, will mean that older children shun healthier menus.
Harrisons managing director Geoffrey Harrison said: "It's an enormous worry because vending, in particular, has represented a significant chunk of income. Contractors need to be confident they can replace it."
Tony Sanders, managing director of Compass Group education division Scolarest, said schools that allowed children out at lunchtime would suffer. "We should not underestimate the time it will take to educate young people and encourage them to eat healthier options," he said.
Food service consultant Vic Laws believes that caterers and schools may have to rewrite contracts as a result of the lost turnover.
"Guaranteed returns for schools will be out of the window," he said. "They will have no option but to look again at the terms of the deal."
Uncertainty surrounding the timetable for change is also making some schools and caterers anxious. Although new lunch standards apply from September, rules for food other than lunch, which includes vending and break-time snacks, will not come into force until some time next year.
Although many caterers have decided to apply the rules for the whole school day from 1 September, some schools are reluctant to give up their confectionery profits before being required to do so.
Torquay Boys Grammar School in Devon is one school that has reportedly pulled out of its contract with local authority caterer Devon Direct Services as a result of a blanket ban on confectionery being imposed in September. The school was unavailable for comment.
By Tom Bill
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