Got diet milk? In a highly controversial move, the dairy industry wants to market artificially sweetened milkâ€”without any special label to alert consumers.
In a petition filed with the FDA, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) seek to change the definition of â€śmilkâ€ť so that chemical sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can be used as optional ingredients not listed on the product label.
If the petitionâ€”originally filed in 2009 and now under consideration by the FDAâ€”is successful, these hidden additives could also be included in 17 other dairy productsâ€”including whipping cream, low-fat and non-fat yogurt, eggnog, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and half-and-halfâ€”without requiring any special labeling.
A Move to Boost Kid Appeal of Milk Products
The dairy industry contends that using artificial sweeteners like aspartame as optional ingredients in milk and other dairy foods without any special labeling would â€śpromote more healthy eatingâ€ť and boost kid appeal. Currently, milk consumption is dropping among both children and adults.
In part, the petition states:
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 milkâ€”including flavored milkâ€”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.â€ť
The goal of the petition is to persuade the FDA to drop a requirement that milk and other dairy products be labeled as â€śartificially sweetenedâ€ť if they contain aspartame or other calorie-free sugar substitutes. Last week, the FDA asked the public to submit comments and data about using artificial sweeteners in dairy foods. So far, there is no FDA ruling on the petition.
Currently, dairy producers can label products as â€śmilkâ€ť if they are unsweetened or contain sweeteners with calories, such as high-fructose syrup or sugar, according to the Huffington Post. Examples of sweetened dairy products include chocolate or strawberry milk and flavored yogurts.
In addition, aspartame and other chemical sweeteners can currently be used in dairy products as long as they are clearly labeled accordingly.