Approximately 2-3% of young children develop allergy or intolerance to cows' milk. The only available treatment is elimination of milk from the diet. However, as milk is an important source of nutrients in childhood, a milk-free diet may not adequately meet the child's nutritional needs. A dietary survey was conducted to assess the nutrient intake of children on cows' milk-restricted diets. A population-based sample of families with young children (31-37 mo) with adverse reaction to cows' milk and/or eggs was contacted, of which 75% agreed to complete a dietary intake assessment. Dietary intake was assessed using a 4-d weighed recording. The nutrient intake in a group of children on cows' milk protein-free (n = 16) and cows' milk reduced (n = 8) diets were compared to a group of cows' milk consumers (n = 10). There were significant differences in nutrient intake of children on milk-free diets and children consuming milk. Children on milk-free diets had significantly lower intake of energy, fat, protein, calcium, riboflavin and niacin. Use of milk substitutes improved the nutritional content of the cows' milk-free diets; however, the recommendations for riboflavin and calcium were still not met.
Conclusion: The results reveal a risk for malnutrition in children on cows' milk-free diets, unless precautions are taken to replace the valuable nutrients from milk in the diet. Parents of children on milk-free diets need advice about food choices in order to reduce the risk of low intake of energy, fat and protein. Supplements with calcium, vitamin D and riboflavin are indicated.