The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) have urged members of Congress to request a more thorough analysis of the World Health Organization (WHO) proposal, “Ending Inappropriate Marketing of Foods for Infants and Young Children,” released in January.

WHO seeks to establish a set of guidelines that would severely limit the marketing and promotion of certain milk and dairy products to children under three. According to WHO, this would shield parents from inappropriate or misleading information that suggests breast milk substitutes and other complementary foods are suitable replacements for infants and young children.

WHO and UNICEF establish recommendations for infant and young children feeding in their joint “Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.” The strategy states that “infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutrition requirements infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.”

Jim Mulherm, president and CEO of NMPF, calls the guidance a “de facto criticism of all milk consumption by toddlers,” adding it would only serve to further confuse consumers and goes against credible international research on the topic.

“The WHO guidance should be focusing on how to encourage the serving of nutrient-dense foods to provide young children and toddlers with a nutritious basis for meals and snacks,” says Connie Tipton, IDFA president and CEO. “It should not restrict the flow of important information regarding the nutritional benefits of dairy foods for young children to parents, caregivers and healthcare providers.”

Both NMPF and IDFA sent a letter to Congress urging members to insist WHO revise the document to clear up the suggestion that dairy is inappropriate for young children. Though the proposal was modified in March, the organizations say recent revisions still run counter to established science that highlights milk’s unique nutritional attributes.

The groups ask Congress to insist that the WHO conduct “a much more thorough analysis of the scientific basis for and potential consequences of this proposal before the WHO pushes forward with further action in this area,” the letter says.  “Until that type of careful scrutiny and revision takes place, we urge the US to insist on the importance of placing this proposal on hold.”