NURSERIES that do not offer a vegan alternative to cow’s milk as part of their free milk schemes are “indirectly discriminating against” children, a charity has said.

The Vegan Society has published a legal opinion challenging the Department of Health to include fortified plant milk in its Nursery Milk Scheme.

The charity’s legal expert wrote in a formal letter to the government that nutritional public health initiatives for children must include fortified plant milk to cater for the growing number of vegan children.

Parents have also slammed the Nursery Milk Scheme, which was established in the 1940s and offers free cow’s milk to children under five in nurseries, for having to pay for their child’s vegan milk.

Jeanette Rowley, The Vegan Society’s legal advisor, said: “Law regulating the provision of milk for young children is in urgent need of reform to recognise current scientific evidence on nutrition and a growing consumer trend away from dairy products.

“Public authorities are under a general duty under the Equality Act 2010 to avoid discrimination; by limiting the Nursery Milk Scheme only to cow’s milk, the Department of Health are failing in that duty.

“We are urging the government to include fortified plant milk in its milk schemes nationwide, to ensure vegan children are catered for with a nutritionally adequate and delicious milk alternative.”

The Vegan Society wants fortified plant milk to be recognised on par with cow’s milk.

Dozens of parents have contacted the charity to complain about the lack of plant milk provision in schools.

Mark Banahan, Campaigns Manager at The Vegan Society, said: “Vegan children are unfairly treated as they do not benefit from the current school health initiatives, which are designed to increase calcium intake for growing children.

“They often miss out or have to rely on parents to provide their own plant milk, something that is not always possible for low-income families and causes a great deal of inconvenience to families who should be entitled to free milk alternatives.

“It’s time the government Play Fair with Plant Milk and support it in nutritional public health initiatives for children.”

The charity has given the Department of Health 14 days to respond, after which it will be considering legal options.