The National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association and U.S. Dairy Export Council have authored a May 9, 2016, letter to President Barack Obama (D), asking the White House to reject proposed World Health Organization (WHO) guidance that “would discourage consumption of nutritious dairy products by young children.” Slated for presentation at the 69th World Health Assembly on May 23-28, 2016, the draft guidelines seek to end the promotion of breast- milk substitutes, including all milk and fortified soy milk, intended for consumption by children younger than age 3.

Among other things, the proposal not only places restrictions on the marketing of foods for infants and young children, but also stipulates that “the messages used to promote foods for infants and young children should support optimal feeding and inappropriate messages should not be included.” The guidelines specifically preclude the indirect cross- promotion of breast-milk substitutes with other food products, as well as any message that is “likely to undermine or discourage breastfeeding, that makes a comparison to breast-milk, or that suggests that the product is nearly equivalent or superior to breast-milk.” Under the guidelines, companies would be prohibited from providing free samples of foods  for infants or young children, or donating equipment, services or gifts to healthcare facilities or staff.

“Discouraging parents from providing their young children with milk, one of the most nutritious foods in the human diet, flies in the face of common sense,” argues the letter, which criticizes guidelines that would prohibit “common images such as a toddler enjoying strawberry yogurt, a one year old eating cubes of cheese or a two year old drinking a glass of milk.” As the dairy groups conclude, “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 and unsubstantiated guidance from WHO.”