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Competitive Food Frequently Asked Questions

A list of questions and answers to aid understanding of the competitive food and beverage requirements.

Competitive Foods and Beverages in California Schools

  1. What does the term “competitive foods and beverages” mean?
  2. What are the rules for selling competitive foods and beverages to students, and who makes these rules?
  3. Where can I find the rules governing the sales of competitive foods and beverages?
  4. Which rules apply to the different groups that sell food and beverages on school campuses?
  5. What if some of the requirements for the sale of competitive foods and beverages seem to conflict with one another?
  6. What are the general parameters of each set of rules for competitive food and beverage sales?
  7. Are public schools, charter schools, and private schools required to follow the same competitive food and beverage rules?
  8. I am from a Residential Child Care Institution (RCCI). What competitive food and beverage rules do RCCI’s have to follow?
  9. How are the rules governing competitive foods monitored and enforced?
  10. My public school campus contains grades K through eighth. How do I determine which Education Code sections to follow - the requirements for elementary school, middle/junior high, or a combination thereof?
  11. The definition for elementary school in Education Code Section 49430 seems to conflict with the definition for elementary school in California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 15500. Which is correct?
  12. I understand that a whole grain food item can be sold in elementary schools. How do I determine if a product is a whole grain food?
  13. What are some examples of “added sweetener”?
  14. Is there a maximum level of added sweetener or sugar for milk and nondairy milk?
  15. The law defines specific beverages that are allowed (certain fruit/vegetable juices, water, milk, or electrolyte replacement beverages). How do I determine if a beverage is compliant if it contains a mix of different beverages?
  16. Why do the state regulations require that an electrolyte replacement beverage contain sodium and potassium?
  17. Is it true that sodas and other non-compliant beverages can still be sold in schools?
  18. Until July 1, 2009, only 50 percent of the beverages sold on a high school campus must comply with the beverage restrictions. What documentation must be provided to the California Department of Education if asked to verify compliance of 50 percent of beverages sold?
  19. Are 100 percent juice popsicles considered a food or a liquid?
  20. Are foods and beverages that are served or given (and not sold) to students required to follow any of these rules?
  21. Are any food and beverage items exempt (e.g. allowed) under the competitive food and beverage rules?
  22. How is a single packaged food item containing a mix of exempt and non-exempt foods and/or ingredients measured for compliance?
  23. Why can certain dried fruits contain added sugar while other forms of fruit cannot?
  24. Can we sell popcorn to our students?
  25. I have heard that schools cannot sell foods containing artificial trans fats. Is that correct?

  1. What does the term “competitive foods and beverages” mean?
    Under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 7, Part 210.11, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines “competitive foods” as “any foods sold in competition with [a federally reimbursable school meal program] to children in food service areas.” The food service area is where the reimbursable meals are sold or eaten, which in California schools means virtually the entire campus. Competitive foods and beverages are those sold at school outside of and in competition with the federally reimbursable meal programs.
  2. What are the rules for selling competitive foods and beverages to students, and who makes these rules?
    The rules for selling competitive foods and beverages are created by four separate entities, two at the federal level and two at the state level.

    Federal Level:
    Local School Wellness Policy: Congress enacted the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act which stipulates that all schools in the nation that participate in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, or Special Milk Program must adopt a Local School Wellness Policy

    CFR, Title 7, Part 210.11, Appendix B: The USDA’s regulations define Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value (FMNV). This appendix lists categories of foods and beverages that cannot be sold during meal time in a food service area. Manufacturers may apply to the USDA to exempt specific products from being classified as FMNV.

    State Level:
    Education Code (EC)
    sections 49430-49431.7: The California Legislature passes laws that, when the subject is education, go into the California EC. These EC sections are established through legislation such as Senate Bills 12, 965, and 490. As other bills on this topic may be signed into law in future legislative sessions, these sections of the EC can change. Exception: EC Section 49430.7 applies only to the federally reimbursable school meal program and does not apply to competitive foods.

    California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 5, sections 15500, 15501, and 15575-15578: The State Board of Education adopted these regulations that include additional requirements that govern food and beverage sales by student organizations (sections 15500 & 15501) and additional requirements that clarify areas of the California EC (created by Senate Bills 12 and 965)

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  1. Where can I find the rules governing the sales of competitive foods and beverages?
    There are a variety of places you can find these rules. There are also places that include additional information for each set of rules.

    Local School Wellness Policy: Section 104 of the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act can be found at:

    CFR, Title 7, Part 210.11, Appendix B: The FMNV list can be found at: EC, sections 49430-49431.7 can be found at: CCR, Title 5, sections 15500-15501, and 15575-15578 can be found at:
  2. Which rules apply to the different groups that sell food and beverages on school campuses?
    Student organizations (includes Associated Student Body) must comply with:
    1. California EC sections 49430-49431.7
    2. CFR, Title 7, Part 210.11, Appendix B: FMNV
    3. CCR, Title 5, sections 15500 and 15501
    4. CCR, Title 5, sections 15575-15578
    5. The school district’s Local School Wellness Policy
    PTA/PTO/Parent Groups/Other adults must comply with:
    1. California Education Code sections 49430-49431.7
    2. CFR, Title 7, Part 210.11, Appendix B: FMNV
    3. CCR, Title 5, sections 15575-15578
    4. The school district’s Local School Wellness Policy

    Food Service (selling individual items) must comply with:
    1. California EC, sections 49430-49431.7
    2. CFR, Title 7, Part 210.11, Appendix B: FMNV
    3. CCR, Title 5, sections 15575-15578
    4. The school district’s Local School Wellness Policy
    Consider which rules are relevant and apply them to your particular situation.
  1. What if some of the requirements for the sale of competitive foods and beverages seem to conflict with one another?
    If requirements for the sale of competitive foods and beverages seem to conflict, then the stricter rule applies.

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  1. What are the general parameters of each set of rules for competitive food and beverage sales?
    The chart below summarizes the requirements set by the different laws and regulations.

Competitive Food and Beverage Requirements by Schools and Groups

Policy References

SB 12, 965, 490
California Law
California EC sections 49430-49431.7

Clarifies EC
California Regulation
CCR, sections 15575-15578

Student Organizations
California Regulation
CCR, sections 15500-15501

Local School Wellness Policy
Federal Law
United State Code, Title 42, Section 1776

Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value (FMNV)
Federal Regulation
CFR

Which Schools Must Comply? Public Schools (Charter & private schools exempt) Public Schools (Charter & private schools exempt) Public Schools (Charter & private schools exempt) National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program
Which Groups Must Comply? All entities All entities Student organizations Check with your district All entities
What Does It Affect?

Foods and beverages sold to pupils K-12

Trans-fat foods sold or provided to pupils K-12

Clarifies definitions found in EC Additional restrictions on sale of foods and beverages Check with your district Specific foods and beverages identified as FMNV

When Are The Limits In Effect?

Elementary Schools

Foods: During and up to ½ hour after the school day1

Beverages: Regardless of time of day2

Trans fat foods: From ½ hour before to ½ hr after the school day

Same as California EC After last lunch period Check with your district During meal time

When Are The Limits In Effect?

Middle or High Schools

Foods: During and up to ½ hour after the school day3

Beverages: ½ hour before to ½ hour after4

Trans fat foods: ½ hour before start of school day to ½ hour after
Same as California EC During and after school day Check with your district During meal time
Where? Entire school campus Same as California EC Entire school campus Entire school campus Where meals are served and/or eaten

1Non-compliant foods can be sold ONLY by pupils of the school from ½ hour after end of school day.
2Non-compliant beverages can be sold ONLY by pupils of the school from ½ hour after end of school day.
3Non-compliant foods can be sold from ½ hour after end of school day or sold during a school-sponsored activity at the end of the school day.
4Non-compliant beverages can be sold from ½ hr after end of school day or sold during a school sponsored activity at least ½ hr after end of school day.

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  1. Are public schools, charter schools, and private schools required to follow the same competitive food and beverage rules?
    No. The set of rules that a school must follow is dependent upon two factors:
    1. Whether the school/district participates in a federally reimbursable school meal program
    2. Where the rule originates (federal or state)
    The chart below summarizes which rules apply to different types of schools.

Competitive Food and Beverage Requirements by School Classification

Policy References

SB 12, 965, 490
California Law
California EC, sections 49430- 49431.7

Clarifies EC
California Regulation
CCR Title 5, sections 15575-15578

Student Organizations
California Regulation
CCR, sections 15500-15501

Local School Wellness Policy
Federal Law
United States Code, Title 42, Section 1776

Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value (FMNV)
Federal Regulation
CFR, Title 7, Section 210.11 Appendix B

Public School
(Not Charter)
Yes–USDA meal program

Required Required Required Required Required

Public School
(Not Charter)
No–USDA meal program

Required Required Required Not Required Not Required

Private School
Yes–USDA meal program

Not Required Not Required Not required Required Required

Private School
No–USDA meal program

Not Required Not Required Not Required Not Required Not Required

Charter School
Yes–USDA meal program

Not Required* Not Required Not required Required Required

Charter School
No–USDA meal program

Not Required Not Required Not Required Not Required Not Required

*EC, Section 49431.7 is required (no trans fat foods sold or provided to K-12 pupils).

  1. I am from a Residential Child Care Institution (RCCI). What competitive food and beverage rules do RCCI’s have to follow?
    A school site on the grounds of an RCCI that sells foods or beverages outside a USDA meal program would follow the requirements as described in question 7 (find type of school, meal program participation, etc. to determine which requirements apply).

    An RCCI which is not part of a school site that participates in a USDA meal program, and sells foods or beverages outside the USDA meal program must follow only the following:
    1. Local School Wellness Policy
    2. Code of Federal Regulations on Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value
  2. How are the rules governing competitive foods monitored and enforced?
    The EC created two levels of enforcement and oversight. EC, sections 49431(c) and 49431.2(d) encourage the governing board of each school district to annually review its compliance with the nutrition standards. EC, Section 49434 authorizes the California Department of Education (CDE) to review schools and districts for compliance through their Coordinated Review Effort (CRE). The CDE can require a school or district to provide the documentation necessary to show proof of compliance.

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  1. My public school campus contains grades K through eighth. How do I determine which EC sections to follow – the requirements for elementary school, middle/junior high, or a combination thereof?
    A K-8 school campus meets the definition for a middle/junior high school. According to EC, Section 49430, the definitions for public schools are:
    • An elementary school cannot contain a grade higher than sixth grade.
    • A middle school can contain grades seventh or eighth, seventh to ninth, inclusive, or seventh to tenth, inclusive.
    • A high school contains any grades tenth to twelfth, inclusive.
    Although by law, a K-8 school can sell items that comply with the middle/junior high school requirements, many K-8 schools create stricter requirements that do not provide the lower grades certain foods or beverages otherwise allowed by law.
  2. The definition for elementary school in Education Code EC, Section 49430 seems to conflict with the definition for elementary school in CCR, Title 5, Section 15500. Which is correct?
    The Nutrition Services Division determined that CCR, Section 15500 does not define the grades an elementary school must contain. In addition, the Legislature defined elementary school in statute (i.e., EC) and statute supersedes regulations. Therefore, the definitions for elementary (middle/junior high, and high school) for all competitive food and beverages requirements are defined by EC, Section 49430.
  3. I understand that a whole grain food item can be sold in elementary schools. How do I determine if a product is a whole grain food?
    EC, Section 49431(a)(2) allows for a “whole grain food item” to be sold in elementary schools provided it contains no more than 35 percent calories from fat, no more than 10 percent calories from saturated fat, no more than 35 percent sugar by weight, and no more than 175 calories per item/container. CCR, Section 15575(g) provides examples of different types of whole grains. Section 15575(h) describes how to determine if a purchased or a prepared item is considered whole grain. For additional information on whole grains please see the attachment to Management Bulletin NSD-SNP-08-2008 [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/documents/mbnsdsnp082008att.doc].
  4. What are some examples of “added sweetener”?
    According to EC, Section 49430(e), a sweetener is defined as any additive other than 100 percent fruit juice that enhances the sweetness of a beverage. This includes any caloric, non-caloric, natural, and FDA-approved artificial sweeteners, with the exception of 100 percent fruit juice. Some examples of “added sweeteners” include agave syrup/juice, aspartame, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, iso malt, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, mannitol, maple sugar, molasses, raw sugar, saccharin, sorbitol, sucralose, sucrose, sugar, syrup, tapioca syrup, turbinado sugar, and xylitol.
  5. Is there a maximum level of added sweetener or sugar for milk and nondairy milk?
    According to the CCR, Title 5, Section 15576(c) and (d)(1), milk or nondairy milk must not contain any added sweeteners that exceed 28 grams of total sugar per 8 fluid ounces. Flavored milks or nondairy milks are allowed, but must meet the sugar restriction as well as other restrictions found in the CCR referenced above.
  6. The law defines specific beverages that are allowed (certain fruit/vegetable juices, water, milk, or electrolyte replacement beverages). How do I determine if a beverage is compliant if it contains a mix of different beverages?
    If a beverage contains a blend of beverages that would all otherwise be compliant, then the mixed beverage is considered compliant. For example, if a beverage contains a mix of fruit and vegetable juices, and the fruit juice and vegetable juice would be compliant by themselves, then the mixed beverage is compliant. If a beverage is a blend of compliant and non-compliant beverages, the blend is not compliant. For example, if a beverage contains a mix of milk (compliant) and coffee (non-compliant) then this beverage does not comply with California’s requirements.
  7. Why do the state regulations require that an electrolyte replacement beverage contain sodium and potassium?
    Electrolyte replacement beverages (ERBs) are designed to replace vital electrolytes lost during exercise. The two electrolytes lost in the largest quantities through sweat during exercise are sodium and potassium.
  8. Is it true that sodas and other non-compliant beverages can still be sold in schools?
    Elementary and middle/junior high schools may not serve sodas or other non-compliant beverages during the school day. According to EC, Section 49431.5, elementary and middle/junior high schools can only sell compliant beverages to pupils. Beverage requirements for high schools were allowed to phase-in compliance, with all beverages needing to be compliant by July 1, 2009.

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  1. Until June 30, 2009, only 50 percent of the beverages sold on a high school campus must comply with the beverage restrictions. What documentation do schools need to provide to the California Department of Education to verify that at least 50 percent of beverages sold comply with the beverage restrictions?
    EC, Section 49431.5(b) states that until June 30, 2009, at least 50 percent of the beverages sold (i.e., exchanged for money, coupons, or vouchers) to pupils in high schools must comply with the requirements. Up through June 30, 2009, to verify that at least 50 percent of beverages sold meet the provisions of EC, Section 49431.5(b)(1), the California Department of Education may request monthly sales or purchase records from each entity selling beverages to pupils, including the type and description of each individual beverage sold.
  2. Are 100 percent juice popsicles considered a food or a liquid?
    Popsicles are considered a food. Products that are in a solid state when sold are considered a food. A liquid is a fluid that can be poured, or a fluid that takes on the shape or form in which it is contained. A fluid poured over ice, or substances blended with ice are also considered beverages.
  3. Are foods and beverages that are served or given (and not sold) to students required to follow any of these rules?
    EC, Section 49430 defines “sold” as the exchange of money, coupons, or vouchers for food. If a food does not meet the definition of “sold,” then it is not required to comply with the state or federal competitive food and beverage rules. Since the current law does not address foods and beverages given (and not sold) to students, school districts may have adopted policy, as part of their Local School Wellness Policy, that restricts the type of foods and beverages given to students.
  4. Are any food and beverage items exempt (e.g. allowed) under the competitive food and beverage rules?
    Foods or beverages exempt from some or all of the competitive food and beverage rules are:
    Elementary schools:
    Individually sold portions of nuts, nut butters, seeds, eggs, cheese packaged for individual sale, fruit, non-fried vegetables, and legumes are exempt from the nutrition standards.
    Middle/junior high and high schools:
    Nuts, nut butters, seeds, eggs, cheese packaged for individual sale, fruit, non-fried vegetables, and legumes are exempt from the fat restriction. Cheese and eggs are exempt from the saturated fat restriction. Fruit and non-fried vegetables are exempt from the sugar restriction. No individually sold portions of the foods above are exempt from the calorie restriction.
    Under the federal regulations for FMNV, certain foods and beverages may be exempt and, therefore, not considered FMNV. Please note that a food may be exempt from the federal FMNV restrictions but not be exempt from state and/or local competitive food and beverage rules. See Exemptions Under the Competitive Foods Regulation [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/he/fmnvexempts.asp] for a current list of exempt FMNV foods and beverages.
  5. How is a single packaged food item containing a mix of exempt and non-exempt foods and/or ingredients measured for compliance?
    According to the CCR, Title 5, Section 15578(c) a food item containing non-exempt foods or ingredients, combined with exempt items, is considered non-exempt and must comply with the restrictions for a non-exempted food. For example, plain peanuts are considered exempt, but honey roasted, or chocolate covered peanuts are a mix of exempt and non-exempt foods and/or ingredients so they are considered non-exempt.
  6. Why can certain dried fruits contain added sugar while other forms of fruit cannot?
    Certain fruits are processed using a sugar water solution as a dehydrating agent. As a result of the dehydration process, some of the sugar in the solution is passively transferred into the fruit. Other dried fruits (when chopped during processing) are too sticky to stay separate. A fine coating of sugar prevents the chopped pieces from clumping together. Fruits that contain added sugar and comply with California’s nutrition standards include, but are not limited to, dried cherries, cranberries, blueberries, tropical fruits, chopped dates, and chopped figs.
  7. Can we sell popcorn to our students?
    Elementary Schools
    Popcorn is considered a whole grain food item and can be sold to elementary pupils (K-6). The popcorn must meet the requirements of Education Code sections 49431 and 49431.2 (no more than 35 percent fat, no more than 10 percent saturated fat, no more than 35 percent sugar by weight, and no more than 175 calories per food item).
    Middle/High Schools
    Popcorn may be sold to middle/high school pupils as long as the popcorn meets the requirements of Education Code sections 49431 and 49431.2 (no more than 35 percent fat, no more than 10 percent saturated fat, no more than 35 percent sugar by weight, and no more than 250 calories per food item).
  8. I have heard that schools cannot sell foods containing artificial trans fats. Is that correct?
    There are two separate rules that govern artificial trans fats. One rule affects foods sold through the federally reimbursable meal program. Information can be found in Information Alert: Compliance with Senate Bill 80 (no longer available).
    The other rule affects competitive food sales. Schools cannot sell or serve foods containing artificial trans fat from one-half hour before to one half hour after the school day. This prohibition is effective July 1, 2009, and can be found in Education Code Section 49431.7. The law defines an artificial trans fat food as one that contains vegetable shortening, margarine, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. A product is considered trans fat free as long as it contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

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Questions: Mike Danzik | mdanzik@cde.ca.gov | 916-445-7346 
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