Written by Jack Bromby
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Topics: Food, GCHQ, Mi6, workplace

Thursday, 2 July 2015

image for Employers can confiscate and keep workers' unhealthy food under government rules for lunchbox inspections

Employers are free to take - and keep - any item from workers' lunchboxes if they think they are unhealthy or inappropriate, the government has said.

Workers were outraged last month when it emerged their scotch eggs and a Peperami were confiscated under health eating policies.

Now ministers have backed the move, giving managing staff freedom to 'confiscate, keep or destroy' anything deemed to break workplace policies and setting out the procedure for carrying out lunchbox inspections.

The row over packed lunches erupted after GCHQ, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, banned junk food from packed lunches.

Outraged GCHQ workers said it was unfair as the The Doughnut's cafeteria menu offers unhealthy food including high sugar desserts like flapjacks, cookies, mousse and of course, doughnuts.


  • Ministers say workplaces can 'confiscate, keep or destroy' items from employees
  • Suggest having two line managers and the worker present for lunchbox searches
  • Workplaces told to 'seek legal advice' if worried about their food policy
  • Follows rows over scotch eggs, Peperamis and cereal bars being taken



GCHQ computer and phone hacker, Michael Laws, of Cheltenham, said he was not allowed to eat his Peperami sausage snack, which was confiscated and only returned at the end of the day with a note from his line manager.

He said another colleague in the mathematics and cryptography department was also told he was not allowed to have scotch eggs in his lunch box.

Workers were also in uproar after the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in London banned healthy snacks such as cereal bars from employees' packed lunches - despite offering pizza, chocolate fudge cake and fish fingers on the cafeteria lunch menu in the government agency's building at Vauxhall Cross.

Two secret spies working for MI6 claimed their line managers confiscated a nut cereal bar and a packet of 100 per cent fruit chews because of their 'hidden sugar'.

It reignited the debate about the quality of workplace meals, at a time when NHS chiefs have warned obesity is the biggest threat to the nation's health.

But the Department for Work and Pensions has backed the move, insisting employees are free to ban whatever they like from lunchboxes.

Governing bodies can decide whether to 'ban certain products to promote healthy eating'.

Employees are urged to consult employers first to 'ensure that any adopted policy is clearly communicated to them'.

But DWP minister Iain Duncan Smith added: "Workplaces have common law powers to search their workers, with or without their consent, for items.

"There is nothing to prevent workplaces from having a policy of inspecting lunch boxes for food items that are prohibited under their food policies.

"A higher up member of staff may confiscate, keep or destroy such items found as a result of the search if it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances."

In response to a parliamentary question, he set out how a search of a lunchbox could be carried out and who should be witnesses.

"It would be good practice for the employee to be present during an inspection and for a second line manager or the CEO to be present if any items are to be confiscated.

"If authorities and workplaces are concerned about their legal position, they should seek their own legal advice.'

Mark Ward, a Labour member of the workers select committee, said: "You would think that bosses might have better things to do than rummaging through workers' crisps and fruit, but apparently not."

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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