Have you heard the latest craziness? In 2009, the Milk industry petitioned the FDA to allow the use of artificial sweeteners in milk without additional labeling on the front of the package. Labels such as “reduced calorie” or “reduced sugar” are required now when artificial sweeteners are added to dairy products as an extra notice to consumers.
FDA is now asking for comments on this petition and articles are flying around the internet. The problem is that quite a few articles are incorrect or unclear on what the petition is actually asking. Many are claiming that the milk industry wants to add artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) without including that ingredient in the ingredient list. This is not true. Other articles are claiming that the industry is asking to be allowed to add artificial sweeteners to milk. They already can! What they are actually asking for is to remove the additional front of the package labeling.
I did quite a bit of reading of the actual petition and this is my interpretation and that of the Huffington Post and Snopes.
Straight from the petition:
“The IDFA (International Dairy Foods Association ) and NMPF (National Milk Producers Federation) jointly submitted a citizen petition (Ref. 1) on March 16, 2009, requesting that FDA amend the standard of identity in part 131 () for milk (§ 131.110). Specifically, the petition requests that FDA amend § 131.110(c)(2) to allow the use of “any safe and suitable” sweetener in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients used in milk.”
What does this mean? They want to redefine the word “milk” to include “any safe and suitable” sweetener – i.e. artificial sweeteners, also known in biz as “non-nutritive sweeteners”. Nutritive sweeteners such as sugar and high fructose corn syrup are already part of the definition. This does NOT mean that they don’t need to be listed in the ingredient list. Just that by definition, milk can contain these items and still be called just plain old “milk” without any qualifiers on the label – the front of the label. So why bother you might ask, well…..
The petition goes on to say:
“The petition acknowledges that the use of non-nutritive sweeteners in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients in milk is allowed under the existing regulatory scheme, with certain additional requirements. … Therefore, while the milk standard of identity in § 131.110 only provides for the use of “nutritive sweetener” in an optional characterizing flavor, milk may contain a characterizing flavor that is sweetened with a non-nutritive sweetener if the food's label bears a nutrient content claim (e.g., “reduced calorie”) and the non-nutritive sweetener is used to add sweetness to the product so that it is not inferior in its sweetness property compared to its standardized counterpart. “
Artificial sweeteners can already be added to milk, as long as there is additional labeling on the packaging. We usually see something like “reduced sugar” or certain ingredients have an asterisk with a note such as “*Ingredients not in regular milk”. I recently found this on a yogurt container with Sucralose. Unfortunately, I didn't realize at the time that sucralose is code for Equal.
So what is their reasoning for this. Again from the petition: “However, 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.”
OK, so let me get this straight. I, as a consumer, don’t recognize that milk should contain sugar. Right, plain milk shouldn't. Flavored milk however? Unless it’s broccoli flavored milk, I’m pretty sure there is a sweetener of some kind in there. But let’s keep going…. if I see “reduced sugar” on a bottle of chocolate milk I might get confused and think this isn't milk????? So they are doing me a favor. And the piece d ’resistance” children are not attracted to a product that is labeled “reduced sugar”.
Personally, I think this is another marketing tactic and I do not agree with it. Yes, the ingredients will still be listed but it is getting more and more difficult to decode ingredient lists. I have added comments to this effect on the FDA petition. Comment period on the petition ends May 21, 2013. Here is good read on the subject.
Misleading articles and the damage they do
With a little reading of the actual petition I could tell there was something not right about the initial articles I was reading. Writers: Do your due diligence! You are hurting the environmental movement by jumping to conclusions and getting people riled up about something that is not true. Many articles refer to petitions asking to stop the FDA from “adding aspartame to milk” or to require it in the ingredient list. These petitions are asking the wrong thing. Many people are submitting comments to the FDA on the wrong issue! The FDA will be dismissing these comments as not relevant. I hope these article are corrected and the petitions amended.
What are your thoughts on this change? Were you confused about the petition?
This post was shared at Green Sisterhood