The Department of Health's Healthy Start scheme due to be implemented at the end of the year may face nursery owners with the task of offering children either a third of a pint of milk or a piece of fruit, amid protests from dairy farmers.
The Dairy Council, the co-ordinating body for the dairy industry in England, Scotland and Wales, is urging the Government to reconsider its proposal. It said the scheme would 'needlessly pit two nutritious foods against each other, rather than offering both, which is clearly the best nutritional choice'.
The Dairy Council's nutrition manager Dr Michelle McKinley said that the under-fives have specific nutritional needs. 'Owing to the high demands of growth, nursery school children have high micronutrient and energy requirements,' she said. 'Milk is an energy and nutrient-dense food and, together with a piece of fruit, would provide the best nutritional package for young children.'
The Healthy Start scheme will replace the Welfare Food scheme, which was created in 1940 to protect children's health under wartime rationing.
Currently milk is provided to any child under the age of five attending an approved nursery school or childcare facility for more than two hours a day.
The health department said responses from the consultation were still being considered and final details of the scheme would be revealed in the autumn.