FDA plans to amend the definition of milk

By / 2 years ago / Food, Shopping News / 15 Comments

I don’t normally get political on my blog, but here’s an issue that may be of interest to you if you drink milk. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have filed a petition requesting that the FDA amend the standard of identity of “milk.” 17 other milk products are also included in the petition, including dry milk, cream, and yogurt.

What does this mean? Instead of using milk’s own natural sugar (lactose,) milk sugar could be replaced with a non-nutritive sweetener, such as aspartame. That’s fine for those who may want to consume a milk product that’s lower in sugar content, but here’s the part that concerns me: The IDFA and NMPF are asking for this sweetener not to be disclosed on the milk’s label.

From the New York Daily News:

Got diet milk? Dairy industry petitions FDA to leave artificial sweeteners off the label. Diet soda is one thing. But diet milk? If the dairy industry gets its way, your kids could soon be drinking a lot more of it.

In a petition filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) request that the agency change the definition of milk and 17 other dairy products so that artificial sweeteners may be added — without having to note it on the product label.

From Decoded Science:

A new kind of milk could be entering grocery stores, and when it happens, you might not even know it. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change the definition of milk and 17 other dairy products. Why would they have to change the definition? Because the IDFA and the NMPF want to add aspartame to milk – and this would change the definition of ‘milk.’

Substituting aspartame for calorie-laden sweeteners will offer schools a low-calorie milk option that kids will want to drink, says National Public Radio.

Part of the reason this is supposedly being done is so that school lunches can contain an overall lower sugar and calorie count if kids are served milk that’s had the milk sugar replaced with an artificial sweetener. But shouldn’t that be disclosed to consumers? If the bill passes, it won’t have to be.

From the petition summary:

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.”

Basically, what this is saying is we dumb consumers don’t realize that milk has sugar in it anyway, so why bother noting whether or not the milk is sweetened with its own natural sugar or an artificial one?

This kind of robo-food scares me. I don’t mind if someone creates a diet version of milk. I do have a problem with someone putting artificial sweeteners in milk, then asking for permission to pass it off as milk without the artificial sweeteners being disclosed on the label. I don’t allow my children to consumer artificial sweeteners, and I don’t consume them either.

I realize many parents may disagree with me. I have an acquaintance who only allows her kids to drink diet beverages so they “won’t get fat,” and she’s aghast that I allow my kids to drink juice and whole milk. Heck, my sons’ school serves diet pop to the kids at PTA events, because parents have requested this, but my boys know they are not to drink it if it’s served to them.

I am much more of a “leave foods alone” person. Give me organic, full-fat, hormone-free milk. Give me 100% juice with no HFCS or Splenda additives. Give me full-fat butter instead of margarine any day. (And give me sugar Cokes! But you already knew that.) Certainly, companies can create whatever they want, as a large number of consumers do purchase these products. But we should also have the right to know what we’re buying so that we can avoid these products if they don’t align with what we want to feed ourselves and our families. I worry far more about the long-term effects of consuming artificial sweeteners and fat substitutes than I do about eating and drinking natural sugars and fats.

As I said, I don’t often get political on my blog, but this one upsets me a great deal. This milk petition is currently open for public comments until May 21st. You can read the public comments, or use this link to add your own comments to the petition.

Only one other time in my life did I comment on an FDA petition – that was back in 2007 when the definition of organic sausage was being expanded to include organic meat packed into non-organic meat casings from cattle and pigs that were not raised organically. That’s also something I thought was ridiculous. But this milk petition? Even more so.


  • vhesslink12. Mar, 2013

    I happen to have a severe reaction to aspartame and don’t want to have to search my milk to find out if it is in there… Or find out the hard way. Way too many products are putting it in, including cold medicine. I guess I could understand the liquid for most people but the tablets. You are not suppose to chew tablets so why would you need to taste sweet.

  • Ruby Red12. Mar, 2013

    I NEVER let my kids eat or drink anything with fake sugar and I am very close to cutting it all out of my diet as well. I thought skim milk was something that they promoted as being low fat anyway. What’s wrong with skim? This article is very scary. We drink organic at home, but my kids drink the milk at school. I don’t want them picking up something like this by accident. YUCK! Jill – is there any petition out there that we can sign so this won’t go through?

  • cg112. Mar, 2013

    The way aspartame is noted on soda cans since people have reactions to it (aspartame must be avoided by people with the genetic condition phenylketonuria). They’ll have to disclose it’s in there. Similar to kids with peanut allergies and no disclosure that’s in something served for lunch. Big lawsuit potential.

    Also, the way the pledge is noted that no cows tainted with rgbh growth hormone were used in milk, it would seem a similar marketing advantage that no nutrasweet is in the milk.

  • FDeRosier12. Mar, 2013

    This is really disturbing. Non-natural products are far more dangerous to our health than milk fat and natural sugars. The Government is trying to regulate EVERYTHING (have you read what is going on in NY for goodness sakes?)in an effort to reduce the average weight of US. However, weight issues are far less dangerous than pumping additives, artifical products, trans fats and a whole host of other non-natural products into our bodies. The human body knows how to handle additional calories, but the human body has no clue what to do with all of the other man-made/modified things they put in food. With all of the mandatory labeling that is also required, how could this even be under consideration? Jill, thanks for posting. I will definitely give input, and forward for others to do the same.

  • Kate M 1312. Mar, 2013

    There is no way they can let this pass! What about those with allergies to aspartame? That HAS to be included!

  • llamalluv12. Mar, 2013

    From the Federal Register link:

    “The petition states that flavored milk labels that bear nutrient content claims such as “reduced calorie” are unattractive to children.”

    Honestly? If it says CHOCOLATE or STRAWBERRY kids are going to grab it over white milk. If they really want to make it “attractive” to children, put licensed cartoon characters on it.

    And IMO the reason that “consumers do not recognize milk —including flavored milk— as necessarily containing sugar” is because most people think of sugar as the white or brown sugar used in baking. I would say that most people do not remember the lessons from their high school biology classes about proteins, fats, and carbohydrates when they are standing in a grocery store aisle, and I’d bet that even fewer realize that a portion of the carbohydrate naturally found in milk from any species of mammal is “sugar”.

  • CouponClipper12. Mar, 2013

    Ever heard of Monsanto?

  • Outlander12. Mar, 2013

    “I am much more of a “leave foods alone” person. Give me organic, full-fat, hormone-free milk. Give me 100% juice with no HFCS or Splenda additives. Give me full-fat butter instead of margarine any day. “

    That what you said is exactly how I feel too. Just give me food that’s as close as possible to tree, ground, farm or wherever it comes from.
    I absolutely hate all this messing with food. In my opinion that is what is making all these people sick nowadays.

  • Bernard200312. Mar, 2013

    When soy milk started having more calcium that regular milk, my family finished a transition to organic soy milk for most of our “dairy” nutrition needs. I hope they don’t do the same thing with soy milk… would they? This type of thing is why I usually get my son bottled water or juice when we eat out – so he doesn’t automatically reach for something unhealthy at school. We don’t have a yard, but this spring we plan on starting two window box gardens. One salsa, one herb. So, you don’t have to have a yard to start trying to grow your own food.

  • soapboxtray13. Mar, 2013

    Thanks for posting this Jill.

    Capri Sun Roarin’ Waters all contain sucralose. It is on the ingredient list, but it is no where to be found on the label or packaging.

    I drink diet coke, and slowly working on cutting out my 1 can a day habit, but I have always tried to be careful with my kids and not giving them diet or artificial sweeteners. When I broke open a box of Roarin Waters when we had friends over with young kids my friend pointed out the artificial sweetener in the juice bags. I was absolutely shocked because I had bought the roaring waters variety thinking they were more “natural” than the regular capri sun juice bags. My friend gets a headache and sometimes migraine when she ingests any artificial sweetener.

    I contacted Kraft foods on this feeling I was totally mislead even though it IS on the ingredients all over the package says “natural” and “no artificial colors or flavors”. Really? Their response was that Sucralose/Splenda is a natural product because it is made with real sugar. Well after investigating into that, I don’t agree. They way they process the real sugar to have it come out as Sucralose is all but natural. I have read reports of it being discovered when making an insecticide. True or not, it is NOT a natural sugar. It is also in many Rx medications for kids. I am sure the list goes on. It has really opened my eyes to reading labels.

    I will make sure to post a comment or submission. Hopefully everyone who reads this will do that. One of the questions: Would the proposed amendments promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers? :-)

  • mz13. Mar, 2013

    Here is a link directly to the government website where they are taking comments about this milk issue. I sent them a comment and am encouraging others to do so as well…


    I found this link in the following Yahoo story…


  • winokitty15. Mar, 2013

    This is scary. Thank you Jill for posting it, as well as the links to comment. I did!! I too have reactons to aspartame, and sugar substitutes, so for companies to not put that on labels is outrageous. But, more importantly, leave milk alone!

  • Lacie122115. Mar, 2013

    From the petition:

    If the standard of identity for milk is amended as requested by petitioners, milk manufacturers could use non-nutritive sweeteners in flavored milk without a nutrient content claim in its labeling. Will the inclusion of the non-nutritive sweeteners in the ingredient statement provide consumers with sufficient information to ensure that consumers are not misled regarding the characteristics of the milk they are purchasing?

    They are NOT petitioning to leave artificial sweeteners completely off the labels. What they are petitioning for is the ability to call artificially sweetened chocolate milk “Chocolate Milk”, not “Reduced Calorie Chocolate Milk”. If you have an allergy, you will still be able to read the ingredient list and see everything in the milk, even the artificial sweeteners.

    Furthermore, there is nothing in the petition that says anything about replacing lactose with artificial sweeteners in non-flavored milk.

  • NFriday15. Mar, 2013

    Hi- The manufacturers will still have to include aspartame in the list of ingredients. They just won’t have to mention it or reduced calorie on the front of the label if this proposal goes through. There are some milk products that already contain aspartame. I know some cocoa mixes do. When I posted the link to this discussion over at LTH forum, one of the posters over there who used to work for Searle, the company that discovered nutrasweet, and who has vast experience dealing with the FDA, says that there is no way the FDA would allow the manufacturers to not mention aspartame on the list of ingredients. He also said that the PKU warning will also have to remain too. He gave me a link to snopes for more information about this.


    Some schools have banned chocolate milk from their lunch programs anyway. I am not a big fan of nutrasweet, but I try to limit the amount of sugar I consume too.

  • SteffaniWilliams15. Sep, 2014

    Thank you for this very informative post.