Free milk policy beneficial to young teeth
Plans to scrap free school milk have been overturned by the coalition Government, after health minister Anne Milton suggested plans for such a move were in place.
In a letter to the Scottish government, Mrs Milton had said the milk scheme was too expensive – costing almost £50m this year – and the coalition was considering increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers for the poorest families instead.
She said there was no evidence the scheme improved health and that the government was looking at abolishing it by April 2011.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Nigel Carter, said: ‘As milk has various benefits to children’s oral health, it is good to hear the Government won’t be scrapping the free milk for under-fives policy. The provision of milk to under fives is particularly important for children in poverty and disadvantage as it ensures they receive an adequate intake of calcium to help during formation of teeth and bones.
‘Milk is also non-cariogenic and, together with water, is a much better drink for young children than any of the other alternatives, many of which contain sugar. Milk also helps to neutralise acid in the mouth, stopping the risk of erosion of the enamel.’
Mr Dorrell, an ex-health secretary and chairman of the Commons health select committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This was a proposal from Anne Milton suggesting that this money might be better used to deliver the same objective by different means.
‘This was a suggestion that there was £50m spent in providing free milk for under-five-year-olds. Could that be better spent to deliver the objective that we all share, which is to ensure that there is the best possible healthy start for all children, but perhaps particularly children from low-income backgrounds?’
Nigel Carter concluded: ‘34% of our five year olds are still experiencing tooth decay, despite this being a totally preventable disease. While these figures have improved over the last decades the removal of free milk could have seen a rise in childhood decay.’