Aspartame In Milk Without Additional Labels? New FDA Petition Asks For Rule Change
We could see aspartame in milk soon (with no additional labeling) should the dairy industry be successful in petitioning the FDA for permission.
The artificial sugar substitute is already used in a broad range of products like diet soda and yogurt. It also goes under the brand-name Equal, though Equal includes other ingredients as well.
Aspartame in milk without extra labeling became a possibility as of last week when the FDA acknowledged a petition from the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation(NMPF), which was filed in 2009.
The Huffington Post reports that the petition asks permission by dairy lobbyists to include artificial sweeteners in milk, along with other dairy products, without requiring a prominent label.
The petition immediately garnered criticism from those who oppose aspartame and other artificial sweeteners. The ingredient has been blamed for causing cancer. It was also the subject of a recent study that claims the ingredient causes changes in a person’s brain chemistry, making them crave high-calorie foods.
The research has been disregarded by dairy lobbyists, who claim that adding aspartame would actually make the milk healthier. The news that the FDA is considering allowing milk in aspartame made its way quickly through social media. It was so concerning to some that popular debunking website Snopes wrote an article to explain it is true.
The main difference that the dairy industry is asking for has to do with labeling. They are already allowed to use artificial sweeteners in milk as long as they are properly labeled. The new petition, however, would make it so that the industry can add artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, without a prominent label.
Instead of a large “reduced calorie” or “reduced sugar” label on the front of the milk carton, they would be allowed to put it on the back or simply add it to the list of ingredients on the nutrition label.
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The petition is concerning, especially for people who like to know what goes into the products that they eat. There are already petitions in places like California and Washington to require more labeling on foods, specifically on genetically modified foods (GMOs). Therefore, a petition by the dairy industry to allow less labeling seems like a step in the wrong direction.
The petition would require someone concerned about the food they eat to look even closer at milk to make sure it doesn’t contain aspartame or another artificial sweetener. The petition specifically targets the attractiveness of milk to children. It reads, in part:
They go on to say:
“IDFA and NMPF argue that nutrient content claims such as ‘reduced calorie’ are not attractive to children, and maintain that consumers can more easily identify the overall nutritional value of milk products that are flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners if the labels do not include such claims.”
“Further, the petitioners assert that consumers do not recognize milk — including flavored milk — as necessarily containing sugar. Accordingly, the petitioners state that milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can ‘more easily identify its overall nutritional value.’ “
The petition, however, doesn’t just want the discrete labeling for milk. It also requests the labeling for a variety of milk and cream products not normally used by school children.
The FDA issued a 90-day notice on February 20, 2013, requesting comments, data, and information about the petition. The milk industry is facing a decline with the growing popularity of soy, rice, almond, and coconut milk. But it is not likely that the labeling change would help the dairy industry gain back its former customers, who have switched to the other milk products for a variety of reasons.
Several have switched over lactose-intolerance or a milk allergy, while others have switched because they believe the other options are healthier. Those who switched voluntarily would be even less likely to switch back if they knew the dairy industry was using artificial sweeteners with discrete labeling involved.
The full petition can be read here, along with a list of how the FDA is taking responses from the public.
Why Your Kids May Soon Be Drinking 'Diet Milk'
The dairy industry wants to boost sales by putting aspartame in milk, with school lunchrooms being a primary target
A student enjoys lunch in the cafeteria of Parklawn Elementary
Milk sales have been sliding for decades, but the industry may soon have a new weapon for countering the trend: a mix of school lunches, product labeling, and aspartame. The question is whether it will work.
The story has the blogosphere buzzing this week, but the idea has been almost four years in the making. In 2009, the National Milk Producers Federation and International Dairy Foods Association, two industry trade groups, filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration to allow the use of aspartame—the artificial sweetener used in products like Diet Coke and Equal packets—in milk, but refrain from changes in how the product is label. Now that the FDA has published the petition and opened it up for public comment, the topic has gained nationwide attention.
Some have joked that the plan will lead to "diet milk," but that's the last thing the dairy industry wants. The trade groups are petitioning for flavored milk containing aspartame to be labeled as "milk," as opposed to something more conscious, like "low-calorie milk."
The groups say the goal is, in part, to counteract childhood obesity. But the petition is also candid about aiming to boost milk consumption. Children drink millions of gallons of milk in school every year, but that consumption is also declining, according to a spokeswoman for IDFA.
The trade associations are hoping that aspartame helps to reverse that decline. Many children prefer chocolate milk to regular milk, but that means added sugar and calories, not to mention hesitance from schools about serving higher-calorie drinks. Meanwhile, there has been a national full-court press to counteract childhood obesity. This solution, the dairy industry says, solves both problems.
"Studies have shown that school-age children are more likely to consume flavored milk over regular milk, so if the downward trend in milk consumption in schools is to be reversed, there need to be better options available for lower-calorie flavored milk," they wrote in their petition.
The nation as a whole has been cutting back on milk. According to the IDFA, per capita milk consumption has declined from nearly 29 gallons per year in 1975 to less than 21 gallons per year in 2010—a drop of nearly 30 percent. Milk has been supplanted by other beverages over the last few decades—first by soda, then water, says Harry Balzer, vice president at market research firm NPD Group and an expert on food trends. Now, people increasingly tend to consume milk via cereal rather than drink it, he says.
The push for lower-calorie options is in part a lesson in knowing your audience. Lower-calorie beverages that are not explicitly labeled as such could please parents and school administrators while getting children—a captive audience in the school lunchroom—drinking more.
"Use of the phrase 'reduced calorie' is not attractive to children," says the petition.
But it is very attractive to people who check labels, especially given the attention being paid to childhood obesity, says Balzer.
"The one thing that people check labels for in this country is the amount of calories in the product, not the amount of fat or the amount of sodium," he says. "I have no doubt that there will be a segment of the population that will be interested in this."
Got Diet Milk? You May See Artificial Sweeteners in Your Milk Soon
The dairy industry is petitioning the FDA to include artificial sweeteners
Edited by key2thecup, 28 February 2013 - 01:48 PM.