The mayor of Lyon has been accused of harming the health of schoolchildren by taking meat off school lunch menus in the city.
The French government criticised mayor Gregory Doucet, from the Green party, after he made the decision to streamline school lunch services while social distancing remained in place during the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Doucet defended the measure and said menus, which include fish and egg products, would be balanced for all children.
But agriculture minister Julien Denormandie accused Mr Doucet of “putting ideology on our children’s plates”. He wrote on Twitter: “Let’s just give them what they need to grow well. Meat is part of it.”
Interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the move was an “unacceptable insult” to French farmers and butchers, adding: “We can see that the moralising and elitist policy of the Greens excludes the popular classes. Many children often only get to eat meat at the school canteen.”
Mr Douce responded to the criticism on Twitter and said the measure was taken “solely” due to the pandemic and added that his right-wing predecessor, Gerard Collomb, had taken “exactly the same measure” during the first wave of infections last year.
But Mr Denormandie said he had requested the region’s top local official, the prefect of Rhone, to overrule the decision. The prefect is due to address the issue as per the minister’s orders.
Lyon is renowned for its meat-focused cuisine and is largely regarded as the culinary capital of France. However, vegetarianism is on the rise in France, with sales of meat-free products increasing.
A law passed in 2018 made it mandatory for schools to have one vegetarian day and vegan restaurant ONA became the first of its kind in France to be awarded a Michelin star earlier this year.
Mr Doucet has courted controversy before, raising eyebrows when he said that the Tour de France was “macho and polluting” and was not welcome in Lyon as long as it was not “environmentally responsible”.