SCHOOL milk with added fluoride is to be introduced for the first time in Doncaster – under a controversial project to halt tooth decay in children.
Parents of pupils at Belle Vue’s St Peter’s Roman Catholic Primary School are expected to be able to sign up for their youngsters to be given daily fluoridated milk from the start of the new term.
Governors at seven other local primary schools are currently deciding whether to follow suit in a move branded a “knee jerk reaction” by fluroride’s opponents.
Doncaster Council has given approval for trial schemes at eight primary schools in the borough’s New Deal for Communities area, which includes Hexthorpe, Balby Bridge and Hyde Park.
Children at these schools have some of the highest levels of tooth decay in the borough – between twice and three and a half times the government target for five-year-olds in England in 2003.
Experts from Sheffield University will work with primary care trust staff to monitor the effects of the scheme over the next five years.
Nigel Thomas, director of dental public health, said:
“Fluoridated school milk is an established method of preventing dental decay in children and the pilot part of the scheme is to assess the uptake and economic benefit of it in Doncaster schools.
“Milk fluoridation has been chosen by the PCTs and the borough council because it gives parents an individual choice for their child as to whether they wish their children to benefit or not.
“It also enables resources to be directed at those areas which need help the most. The level of dental decay in five-year-old children in Doncaster has not improved in recent years and is high in comparison with surrounding areas.”
He said children whose parents opted for them not to take part in the scheme would receive ordinary school milk as usual.
However Rick Rolt, spokesman for the Green Party in Doncaster, said there were still question marks over the effectiveness of fluoride and that authorities should focus on promoting healthier eating.
He commented: “It seems crazy that we poison our children with rubbish, processed foods and sugary drinks then have to add another chemical to the cocktail to try to halt the damage.
“So many things the council does is about knee-jerk reaction and not about addressing the cause of the problem.”
Fluoridated milk has been supplied to schools in some parts of the country since 1993 with 30,000 youngsters receiving it daily in the North West. In South Yorkshire, 37 schools in Sheffield, 18 and Barnsley and one in Rotherham have so far introduced fluoridated milk.