Kids like flavored milk. Too many kids today are overweight and don’t exercise enough if at all. Let’s make chocolate and strawberry-flavored milk with artificial sweeteners that have no calories and let’s keep it quiet about this because “aspartame” is not a kid-friendly word.
I don’t mean to put words into people’s mouths but, after learning that the dairy industry has petitioned the FDA to put aspartame in milk but not label it, one wonders if such thoughts have ever passed through some dairy industry executive’s head.
The rationale is that the omission will “more easily identify [the milk's] overall nutritional value.” That’s a rather puzzling statement: not mentioning everything in a food or beverage product would instead make it more difficult to figure out its nutritional value. Plus, aspartame can be dangerous for some including children with PKU (phnylketonuria, a rare condition in which a baby is born unable to break down the amino acid phenylalanine). Concealing the addition of aspartame could endanger some children’s health.
Back in 2009, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) filed a petition requesting that the FDA “amend the standard of identity for milk.” The petition asked the FDA to allow the use of “any safe and suitable” sweetener for milk. It also requested that the FDA amend the “standards of identity” for 17 other milk and cream products — sweetened condensed milk, whipping cream, yogurt and eggnog. All of these should be allowed to have “safe and suitable” sweeteners, according to the dairy groups.
Specifically, the dairy groups requested that the FDA
…allow optional characterizing flavoring ingredients used in milk (e.g. chocolate flavoring added to milk) to be sweetened with any safe and suitable sweetener – including non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame.
FDA regulations currently only allow milk products to contain “nutritive sweeteners” (those with calories), which the agency generally recognizes as safe.
According to the IDFA and NMPF, the proposed amendments “would promote more healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity by providing for lower-calorie flavored milk products.” Milk sweetened with aspartame or other additives may have less sugar but consuming products with fewer calories does not necessarily mean one’s diet is healthier. Some people are more likely to consume more of a product that is packaged as “low-calorie.” Even more, is the milk industry trying to make more products (with lower amounts of sugar) that adhere to new regulations for school lunches?
In their petition, the IDFA and the NMPF contend that not letting consumers know about all the ingredients in milk will lead to “honesty and fair dealing in the marketplace.” Given the recent horse meat scandal in Europe, food manufacturers everywhere should be focusing on greater accuracy in their labels and more transparency, not less. Consumers need to know what they (and certainly children) are consuming.
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