schoolA French municipality has apologised for any offence after a school told Jewish and Muslim children to wear coloured necklaces to show they did not eat pork.

Officials in Auxerre have launched a joint investigation into the initiative at the 1,500-student Piedalloues primary school, where 18 children were identified as not eating pork by wearing chains with red dots.

Parents were angered by the practice, with comparisons to Holocaust-era imagery but the school, which gave different coloured necklaces to children eating pork, insisted that the move was not discriminatory. 

A member of staff told France TV that the supervisors who introduced the system were new, and that they had only wanted to avoid the risk of giving pork to children who were not allowed it. “This controversy is based on nothing,” they added.

However, local officials said angry parents had raised concerns, and Christian Sautier, director of communications at the mayor’s office, said they “fell out” of their chairs when they heard the news, adding that it was “isolated” and “clumsy”. 

Local councilor, Malika Ounès said: “Practices like this are not acceptable. No one has the right to impose this on children. It’s revolting. It reminds you of the darkest times.”

France has significant Muslim and Jewish minorities and ethnic tensions are often exploited by populist right-wing politicians, with both Marine Le Pen and Nicolas Sarkozy opposing non-pork options in schools in recent years.