If you or your kids are a lover of chocolate milk and reach for the lower fat or fat free milk labeled “reduced calorie” – beware. The dairy manufacturers would rather that the carton simply say “chocolate milk.” Leaving out the fact that it contains artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. This is according to this article published on the FDA website.
Why? According to a petition submitted to FDA, one reason is that industry groups believe labels such as “reduced calorie” or “no added sugar” are a turn-off to kids who might otherwise reach for flavored milk with non-nutritive (artificial) sweeteners at the school cafeteria or from the grocery store cooler.
The petition from the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) was published for public comment in the Federal Register and has generated much interest—and confusion. The “comments” on this petition closed officially May 21, 2013. Now it’s up to our “friends” at the FDA to make their decision.
According to Mary Poos, Ph.D., deputy director of FDA’s Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements, FDA has received more than 30,000 comments. “Based on these comments, we’re seeing a fair amount of confusion about what the labeling change would actually mean,” Poos says.
Not sure how much confusion there is here – the dairy industry wants to put artificial sweeteners in the milk millions of Americans, including millions of kids drink everyday, and not label the packaging as such?
What the Change Would Mean
The petition from IDFA and NMPF calls for FDA to change the “standard of identity” for milk. A standard of identity is the federal requirement that determines what ingredients some food products must (or may) contain to be marketed under certain names.
Currently, if a manufacturer wants to include an ingredient that is not among those in the product’s standard of identity, the name of the food on the package’s main display panel must be modified with a nutrient content claim (such as “reduced calorie”) to show how it has been changed.
For example, under existing regulations, the replacement of a nutritive sweetener (such as sugar) with a non-nutritive sweetener (such as sucralose, acesulfame potassium, or aspartame) in flavored milk would reduce the milk’s calorie count. Because of the replacement, words such as “reduced calorie” must be prominently displayed on the package. The specific name of the sweetener used must still be included in the list of ingredients.
The two groups asked FDA to amend the standard of identity for flavored milk and 17 other dairy products (including nonfat dry milk, heavy cream, eggnog, half-and-half and sour cream) so that non-nutritive sweeteners are among the standard ingredients. The products would then not require any additional description on the label.
“If we granted the petition, a carton of chocolate milk made with non-nutritive sweeteners would simply say ‘chocolate milk,’ the same as a carton made with nutritive sweeteners, such as sugar,” notes Felicia Billingslea, director of FDA’s Food Labeling and Standards staff. “You would need to read the ingredient list, which is typically on the back or the side of the product, in order to tell the difference between the two.”
People who commented in response to the Federal Register notice appear to be under the impression that the non-nutritive sweeteners will not be listed anywhere on the product—which is not the case. They would still be named in the ingredients list on the package (on the back, in very small print).