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Dairy groups upset with WHO infant milk recommendations

NMPF and IDFA ask Congress for more thorough analysis on dairy recommendations before WHO takes action next month.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA) urged members of Congress this week to insist that the U.S. request a more thorough analysis of a World Health Organization (WHO) proposal seeking to discourage parents from feeding toddlers milk and certain dairy products.

At the beginning of the year, WHO issued “Ending Inappropriate Marketing of Foods for Infants & Young Children,” a guidance document urging a prohibition on the promotion and marketing of various milk products for children up to age three.

“The WHO guidance document is a de facto criticism of all milk consumption by toddlers,” said Jim Mulhern, president and chief executive officer of NMPF.  “This flies in the face of all credible, international nutrition research and would confuse consumers across the globe.”

IDFA president and CEO Connie Tipton added, “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. It should not restrict the flow of important information regarding the nutritional benefits of dairy foods for young children to parents, caregivers and health care providers.”

In a letter sent to members of the House and Senate, both organizations want the U.S. government to insist that WHO revise this document to rectify the misleading suggestion that dairy is inappropriate for young children. The proposal was modified somewhat in late March, but the recent revisions still run counter to established science that highlights milk’s unique nutritional attributes.

The groups asked Congress to insist that 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. Until that type of careful scrutiny and revision takes place, we urge the U.S. to insist on the importance of placing this proposal on hold.”

If the guidance were adopted, it could have negative health effects on children worldwide. It also counters ample scientific evidence that dairy products play a significant and positive role in children’s diets, as seen in the recently updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the inclusion of dairy foods in programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC).

NMPF and IDFA are part of a coalition that objects to the WHO proposal. Among their efforts, NMPF and IDFA have met with numerous U.S. agencies and submitted detailed comments to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the lead federal agency on the matter.

“This is of great concern to the U.S. dairy industry because the policies proposed contradict decades of federal nutrition policy, which recognizes dairy foods as safe, nutrient-rich foods to be encouraged for growing children under three years of age,” the letter argued.

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