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Artificial Sweeteners in Milk

Claim:   Dairy groups are petitioning the FDA to allow the use of artificial sweeteners in milk without labeling requirements.

MIXTURE:
TRUE: Dairy groups are petitioning the FDA to allow the use of artificial sweeteners in milk without having to label the milk as "reduced calorie" or "reduced sugar."
 
FALSE: Dairy groups are petitioning the FDA to allow them to add aspartame to milk and not include it in the ingredients list.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, February 2013]

There is a new post going around Facebook that the gov intends to put Aspartame in milk. Aspartame is a poison that causes cancer. Is it true that they are going to do this? There are suddenly links all over Google that its true but I'm not sure if the sources are reputable.
 

Origins:   Back on 16 March 2009, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) jointly submitted a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting that the FDA "amend the standard of identity for milk" to allow the use of "any safe and
suitable" sweetener in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients used in milk.

What this means is not, as has commonly been claimed, that the dairy industry is seeking permission to add artificial sweeteners to milk (they can already do that), or that they are attempting to change the rules so that they don't have to disclose the presence of artificial sweeteners in the ingredients listing on milk containers. What these groups are requesting is that they be allowed to sell milk which includes artificial sweeteners without being required to include prominent front label notices on the packaging describing the product as "reduced calorie" or "reduced sugar."

The petitioners argue, in part, that "lower-calorie flavored milk would particularly benefit school children," and that the use of artificial sweeteners in milk should be allowed without the need to include labeling information identifying that milk as "reduced sugar" or "reduced calorie" because "claims such as 'reduced calorie' are not attractive to children":
[Petitioners] state that lower-calorie flavored milk would particularly benefit school children who, according to IDFA and NMPF, are more inclined to drink flavored milk than unflavored milk at school. As further support for the petition, IDFA and NMPF state that the proposed amendments would assist in meeting several initiatives aimed at improving the nutrition and health profile of food served in the nation's schools. Those initiatives include state-level programs designed to limit the quantity of sugar served to children during the school day.

[M]ilk 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."
(The petition also asks the FDA to allow similar changes for a variety of milk and cream products not commonly consumed by school children, such as whipping cream and sour cream.)

The FDA has not yet ruled on the petition: on 20 February 2013 that agency issued a 90-day notice requesting comments, data, and information about the issues presented in the petition, an action which brought the issue to public attention.

The petition has been met with public opposition from those who believe artificial sweeteners to be unhealthful and those who believe that vendors of milk (and other products) should not be allowed to include such ingredients in their products while obscuring the presence of those ingredients through changes in FDA labeling requirements.

(Claims about the safety of aspartame are covered in another article on this site.)

Last updated:   26 February 2013

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