Healthier drinks

These standards for healthier drinks are designed to control the amount of sugar, fat and saturated fat provided by school drinks :

  • Free, fresh drinking water should be provided at all times
  • The only drinks permitted during the school day are:
    • Plain water (still or carbonated);
    • Lower fat milk or lactose-reduced milk;
    • Fruit or vegetable juice (max 150mls)
    • Plain soya, rice or oat drinks enriched with calcium; plain fermented milk (e.g. yoghurt) drinks;
    • Combinations of fruit or vegetable juice with plain water (still or carbonated, with no added sugars or honey);
    • Combinations of fruit juice and lower fat milk or plain low-fat yoghurt, plain soya, rice or oat drinks enriched with calcium; cocoa and lower fat milk; flavoured lower fat milk all with less than 5% added sugars or honey;
    • Tea, coffee, hot chocolate;
  • Combination drinks are limited to a portion size of 330ml. They may contain added vitamins or minerals but no more than 150ml of fruit or vegetable juice. Fruit or vegetable juice combination drinks must be at least 45% fruit or vegetable juice by volume.

This food group includes:

  • Plain drinks like water, (still or carbonated), fruit or vegetable juice (max 150mls), lower fat or lactose reduced milk, (milk with a fat content of no more than 1.8 per cent), plain soya, rice or oat drinks enriched with calcium and plain yoghurt drinks.
  • Combinations of fruit or vegetable juice with plain water (still or carbonated, with no added sugars or honey).
  • Combinations of fruit juice and lower fat milk or plain yoghurt, plain soya, rice or oat drinks enriched with calcium; cocoa and lower fat milk; flavoured lower fat milk.

Combination drinks are classified as non-alcoholic flavoured drinks under EU law and are allowed to contain the additives and flavourings as specified by Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 on food additives and Regulation (EC) No 1334/2008 on flavourings.

Download our resource for full technical details of permitted drinks.

FAQs:

Do we need to provide drinking water for pupils?
Schools must have free drinking water available at all times to registered pupils on school premises. You can sell bottled water, including sparkling water, as well.

What is a combination drink?
Combination drinks are non-alcoholic flavoured drinks under EU law under category 18 in Annex II of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 on food additives, where specified additives are permitted.

Our summary drinks table lists and defines the type of drinks that can be provided in schools, along with the legislation that underpins the drinks standard.

Why do the standards include a cap on the portion size of fruit juice and combination drinks?
The portion size of all fruit juice and milk combination drinks is limited to a maximum of 330mls, to help keep children’s sugar and calorie intake down. The limit on fruit juice portion size (150ml) is in line with current Public Health England guidance. The sugar in fruit juices, unlike that in whole fruit, is associated with dental decay and it’s recommended that fruit juice is only consumed with meals.

Can additives be used in combination drinks?
Under EU law drinks can contain additives and flavourings, but the School Food Plan Expert Standards Panel strongly encourages schools to provide drinks which are additive-free.