Saturday, March 9, 2013

Should Artificially Sweetened Milk be Labeled as Milk?

What is the “standard of identity” for milk? This may sound like a silly question, but condensed milk, evaporated milk, and milk all have very specific specifications, as defined by the FDA. The FDA keeps close watch on such things to prevent food manufacturers from misrepresenting their products.

The FDA revealed last week that it is considering a petition from the dairy industry for a rule change that would allow milk to be sweetened with “any safe and suitable sweetener”, such as aspartame. Furthermore, the dairy industry wants the sweetened milk to be called just milk, without having to reveal on the front of the container that it contains sweeteners. The industry is worried about flagging sales of plain old boring milk, and they’ve come up with a marketing solution - make it taste sweeter!

To convince the FDA that this would be a good thing, the dairy industry makes the argument that making milk taste sweeter will allow it to compete more effectively with sugary drinks. The industry’s logic is that if milk tasted sweeter, more kids might choose milk it over sugary drinks. And that, they say, would help combat obesity.

Huh? Getting kids used to sweeter-tasting milk (and thus to sweet-tasting drinks) will somehow reduce their preference for sugary foods and drinks and combat obesity? You’ve got to be kidding. The industry’s petition to the FDA has prompted an angry response from parents and consumer groups. The FDA is inviting public comments on the issue through May 21, 2013, after which it will make its decision. If you have an opinion, you can register it on the FDA’s website.

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