The US dairy industry is hoping the White House will help block a proposal from the World Health Organization (WHO) that seeks to discourage young children from consuming dairy products by suppressing the advertising and marketing of them.
In a letter to the Obama administration, the National Milk Producers Federation, the International Dairy Foods Association and the US Dairy Export Council called WHO “bureaucrats” looking to overturn sound nutrition and medical advice.
At issue is a WHO guidance document that will be presented to the World Health Assembly (WHA) later this month. The three dairy organizations urged the US government to seek further scientific review of, and changes to, the WHO guidance and how it may be used in the future.
“Discouraging parents from providing milk, one of the most nutritious foods in the human diet, to their children flies in the face of common sense,” the letter said. “Increased milk and dairy product consumption in recent years has helped improve nutritional outcomes for hundreds of millions of children around the world. This very positive trend should be further encouraged, not thwarted by ill-advised guidance from WHO.”
WHO wants to establish a set of guidelines that would severely limit the marketing and promotion of certain milk and dairy products to children under three years of age. 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 have established recommendations for feeding infants and young children in their joint “Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding” document. 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.”
Though the intent of the document is presumably to encourage healthy eating patterns for toddlers, the dairy groups say the proposal as it’s currently drafted will have the opposite effect, significantly discouraging children’s consumption of nutritious dairy products.
The letter went on to explain that the WHO proposal wrongly portrays milk and dairy products as obstacles to a healthy start in life, contradicting the science behind US health policy featured in the federal dietary guidelines and the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics.