U.S. dairy industry petitions FDA to approve aspartame as hidden, unlabeled additive in milk, yogurt, eggnog and cream
The petition acknowledges that the use of non-nutritive sweeteners in optional characterizing flavoringingredients in milk is allowed under the existing regulatory scheme, with certain additional requirements. The regulatory framework governing the naming of standardized foods that do not fully comply with the relevant standards of identity changed with the passage of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 and FDA's rulemaking establishing the Agency's requirements for foods named by use of a nutrient content claim and a standardized term (§ 130.10 (21 CFR 130.10)). Section 130.10(d) allows the addition of safe and suitable ingredients to a food named by use of a nutrient content claim and a standardized term when these ingredients are used to, among other things, add sweetness to ensure that the modified food is not inferior in performance characteristic to the standardized food even if such ingredients are not specifically provided for by the relevant food standard. 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. 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.”
As to the additional dairy standards, IDFA and NMPF state that administrative efficiency counsels in favor of similar changes. As long as FDA is dedicating resources to amending the standard of identity for milk, they argue, the Agency should also amend the standards for these products at the same time. They state that it is most efficient to consider all of the proposals together. According to the petition, the requested changes to the additional dairy standards present the same issues as the milk standard, and it is therefore appropriate to consider all of the requested changes together.