Parents are being urged to check that children’s food supplements contain enough vitamin D after research found that many are well below the correct dose.
Experts have warned that families are being misled into believing they are protecting youngsters from health conditions like rickets, caused by vitamin D deficiency.
Public Health England recommends that children aged one to four receive a daily 10 microgram (400IU) vitamin D supplement.
Researchers from the universities of Oxford and Southampton examined vitamins sold by Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Boots, Holland and Barrett, Lloyds Pharmacy and Superdrug.
Only one multivitamin was suitable for use from birth and this supplied 200IU per day - around half the recommended amount.
For children over six months old, just 25 to 36 per cent of the available multivitamins provided the recommended amount.
Dr Benjamin Jacobs, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “To learn that so many products fail to provide children with the recommended level of Vitamin D is highly concerning, especially when latest evidence shows our children’s average intake are still below the recommended amount.”
The research comes after latest figures showed there were 101,136 hospital admissions with a main or secondary diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency in 2017/18 - 34 per cent more than in 2016/17.
Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the industry-funded health and food supplements information service (HSIS), said: “Food supplements are meant to supplement the diet, not replace the nutrients obtained from foods.
“In that respect, and since there are varying recommendations across different age groups of children, it is right that different supplements offer different doses.”
The research has been published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.