FDA plans to amend the definition of milk
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.