Vegans say scheme to give free milk to new mothers is discriminatory

Vegans say scheme to give free milk to new mothers is discriminatory

Vegans have accused the NHS of “discrimination” because its scheme giving free milk to new mothers does not include soya or almond variants.

The Vegan Society has urged the health service to overhaul its Healthy Start programme to include vegan-friendly milks and vitamins.

The initiative offers vouchers to families and pregnant women on benefits that can be exchanged for milk, vitamins and fruit and vegetables.

But parents are restricted to buying plain cow’s milk that is whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed.

Milk substitutes such as almond or soya milk cannot be purchased.

Now, the Vegan Society has written to NHS officials saying the scheme, for children up to the age of four, is discriminatory.  

The letter said: “The convictions of vegans come within the protection of the law and, on the face of it, it appears that the Healthy Start voucher scheme could be inadvertently discriminatory.”

It added: “It is important for everyone to eat calcium-rich foods daily and fortified plant-based milk plays an important role in vegan nutrition.

“In fact, the UK’s Eatwell Guide recognises that fortified plant-based milk represents a valuable alternative to cows’ milk.

“Calcium content is comparable and the soya variety is similar to cow’s milk in terms of protein quantity and quality.

“Another issue that affects vegans is that Healthy Start supplements contain vitamin D from animal fat, which means that the only vegan-friendly nutritional benefit of this scheme is free fruit and vegetables.

“In order to meet national recommendations about supplementation of vitamins A, C and D in under-fives, vegan parents/guardians have to purchase vegan-friendly drops.”

The letter said the vitamin D supplement currently on offer “unfairly disadvantages vegans and the restriction on the purchase of milk is unjustified.”

It also warned that the NHS “must give due regard to the needs of vegans to ensure compliance with legal duties, and so that vegans do not experience unlawful interference or discrimination.”

Legislation on the scheme  states that vouchers can only be used towards the cost of fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and plain cow’s milk.

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