Got Chocolate Milk? Industry Wants to Change Definition

May 3rd, 2013

milk2If a dairy industry push to change the definition of flavored milk is successful, the only way consumers will be able to tell the difference between milk with sugar and milk with sweeteners such as aspartame will be to read the ingredients list on the back of the beverage. Otherwise the packages will look the same.

The dairy industry is petitioning the FDA to change the standard identity of milk, which would affect labeling requirements on flavored milk products like chocolate or strawberry milk, as well as 17 other products including sour cream, eggnog, and half-and-half.

Milk that has non-nutritive sweeteners added (e.g., anything other than sugar, such as sucralose or aspartame) are not considered to be true milk under the current standard identity. Because they have been modified, these products must include terms like “reduced calorie” on the front of their packages. Products simply labeled “chocolate milk” or “strawberry milk” may only use sugar as a sweetener.

According to the dairy industry’s petition, children are more likely to drink flavored milk than regular milk, but they are turned off by terms like “reduced calorie.”  The petitioners — International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation —  argue that changing the standard identity of milk to include artificially sweetened milk will help more children make healthy choices. But others argue the change would be deceiving.

One health professional in Texas wrote on the FDA’s feedback page:

Additives to our food and/or dairy products, any kind of additives, should be clearly labeled on the product packaging so the consumer is given the FREEDOM to CHOOSE what they want to buy. Leaving things off of the label so we can buy it anyway in a chemically altered state is just as bad as false advertising. There is no “one dose fits all” and some people, including children, can possibly have a bad reaction if they are sensitive to certain sweeteners and additives. It would be irresponsible to add anything that could pose a risk to a child’s health.

Whatever your preference regarding sugar or artificial sweeteners, we at truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) want consumers to be able to make informed decisions when selecting among flavored dairy products. In order to do this, labels on the front of packaging must indicate when a product is sweetened with sugar or an artificial sweetener. TINA.org told the FDA:

Sugar and artificial sweeteners are not the same thing. Labels for products that contain these ingredients should not be the  same either. By allowing labels to gloss over the differences between milk with sugar and milk with artificial sweeteners, consumers will be misled into thinking that both are equal, when that is not the case.

The FDA is accepting public comments until May 21st.

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