The French government has criticised Lyon's mayor after he removed meat from school lunches in the city.

Gregory Doucet, a member of the Green party, has said the move allows service to be streamlined and quickened amid coronavirus restrictions. But the government has hit back, accusing him of risking children's health.

Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie wrote: "Let's stop putting ideology on our children's plates." In a post on Twitter he added: "Let's just give them what they need to grow well. Meat is part of it." Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said it was an "unacceptable insult" for French farmers and butchers.

"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 Doucet responded by saying his right-wing predecessor as mayor introduced the same measure during the pandemic last year.

Fish and eggs remain on school menus in Lyon, and Mr Doucet said menus would be balanced for all children. Nutritionists say a vegetarian diet is safe for children, but advise taking extra care to ensure sufficient amounts of protein, iron and other minerals are included.

Lyonnaise cuisine is world renowned, with a particular emphasis on meat and offal. But there are signs of tastes changing. Sales of meat-free products are on the rise, and a 2018 law made it compulsory for schools to make one day vegetarian. A vegan restaurant recently made history in France by winning a coveted Michelin star.

Mr Doucet maintains the measure is solely as a result of the pandemic, but has been unafraid to challenge French traditions. He has previously called the Tour de France bike race "macho and polluting".