Warning of cows' milk risk to babies

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(First Edition) COW'S MILK should not be given to children as a main milk drink before their first birthday because of a risk of allergy, according to diet recommendations approved by the Government yesterday.

It is the first time that the Government has made the recommendation and follows American infant diet policy and guidelines.

The report, by a working group on weaning from the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (Coma), says that after 12 months cow's milk is a suitable drink for infants and its use as a mixer for weaning foods can be extended.

However, between the ages of one and two the recommendation is for full-cream milk only. Semi-skimmed milk, with its lower calorific value, is recommended only for children over two years old, so long as they are growing satisfactorily. Skimmed milk is not recommended until a child is five.

'Cow's milk proteins are more allergenic to the human infant than human milk proteins,' the report says. In addition the small amount and nature of iron in cow's milk makes it difficult to absorb.

Recent recommendations have stressed the advantages of continuing breast milk or infant formula as the main drink for the first year, the report adds.

The working party also warns against sugars given to babies in food and drink. Commercial baby drinks should also be restricted to main meal times and parents should not add sugars to home-made foods, it says.

The document, which also recommends infants should stay on mothers' milk until they are at least four months old, is likely to be seized on by families considering legal action against baby-drink firms. About 650 families - with more than 1,000 children who have lost teeth through decay caused by sugary drinks - are preparing a mass action against companies including Ribena.