Parents must not give babies fashionable nut and soya milk – it can cause malnutrition and even death, say scientists.

Parents must not give babies fashionable nut and soya milk – it can cause malnutrition and even death, say scientists.

Sales of dairy-free alternatives such as soya almond, chestnut and rice milk have soared among health-conscious adults.

But worried experts have called for warnings against giving them to young children to be printed on the packaging.

A French study identified 34 infants, average age nine months, who had medical problems caused by non-dairy drinks.

One died ‘as a direct result of nutritional complications due to the exclusive consumption of a chestnut drink’.

All but six were too small for their age, 22 had suffered skin reactions and six had a fluid build-up. A third were malnourished due to lack of protein and energy and two had suffered seizures. Of 20 given blood tests, more than half had anaemia and others had a vitamin D deficiency.

The parents had switched milks without medical advice after suspecting the babies had an intolerance to dairy products.

Nutrition expert Dr Clare Llewellyn of University College London said: ‘Lactose intolerance is uncommon in infants, while a cow’s milk allergy affects only two to 7.5 per cent of infants under one. Both need to be diagnosed by a medical doctor before finding a solution.’ The French study was published in the journal Acta Paediatrica.