Westcountry dairy farmers will be hoping for a boost in demand as the Department for Education announces new rules for milk in schools.
Under the latest healthy eating standards, which will come in to force in January next year, low-fat milk, the equivalent of semi-skimmed, must be made available at least once a day to all primary and secondary pupils.
The under-fives, who already receive milk for free, and those on free school meals will not have to pay.
Older children will be charged, but it is hoped the use of small cartons will encourage them to drink it and help address issues of calcium consumption.
This will replace previous guidelines which specified only that calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage or custard had to be offered.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Our revised school food standards say for the first time that lower fat milk must be available for pupils – both primary and secondary – during the school day. We want all pupils to eat healthily and giving every child access to milk at school will be a key part of that.”
Milk in schools has been an emotive issue since the early seventies, when in 1971 the then education secretary Margaret Thatcher was nicknamed the “milk snatcher” for stopping over-sevens from receiving the drink for free.
Chairman of the NFU South West dairy board Mark Oliver welcomed the news. He said: “This is very positive for the dairy industry. It is important for children to be able to taste healthy and nutritious milk.”
Bill Clarke of Cornish milk processor Trewithen Dairy, which is based in Lostwithiel, said: “It is good news that youngsters can be introduced to this great tasting product.
“Back in my day we had milk in school, and today the milk is much better than it used to be.”
Mr Clarke added: “In Cornwall we have some great farmers that are producing this product.”
The revised food standards will also address a number of other areas on the school dinners menu.
Pupils will only be offered two portions of deep-fried, battered or bread-crumb coated foods each week, with pastry-based dishes being subject to the same restrictions.
Sugary snacks including chocolate and other confectionery will face a complete ban, and salt will not be available for pupils to add to their food after cooking.
Other requirements which schools will be required to put in to practice include limiting fruit juice portions to 150ml, serving at least three different fruits and vegetables each week and only allowing biscuits, cakes and desserts at lunchtime.
Education secretary Michael Gove said: “We now have a clear and concise set of food standards which are easier for cooks to follow and less expensive to enforce. Crucially we have achieved this without any compromise on quality or nutrition.”
He added: “There has been a great deal of progress in providing healthy school meals in recent years and these new standards will help deliver further improvements.”