The National Milk Producers Federation wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fix a problem in the planned definition of added sugars on food labels, saying it appears to include dairy products used as food ingredients, even though the lactose – or “milk sugar” – in those products occurs naturally.
Commenting on the FDA’s proposed changes to the “Nutrition Facts" label, NMPF was basically supportive of FDA’s proposal to list added sugars, saying it will clarify the contribution of lactose to dairy products and allow consumers to pinpoint added sweeteners in foods.
But, under FDA’s proposed definition, NMPF said the lactose in a tablespoon of nonfat dry milk incorporated into another food would count as an “added sugar,” while the lactose in a glass of milk would not.
“Surely, that can’t be what FDA intends,” said Beth Briczinski, NMPF’s vice present for dairy foods and nutrition. “We assume this is simply an oversight, since nonfat dry milk is often an ingredient in dairy products like yogurt and ice cream, as well as other foods, including baked and processed foods that benefit from added milk solids.”
“Either way,” Briczinski added, “this needs to be corrected.”
NMPF offered three specific reasons to exclude lactose-containing dairy ingredients from the definition of added sugars:
• Unlike typical added sugars, dairy ingredients containing lactose are not used primarily to sweeten foods. In fact, compared with other sugars, lactose is not very sweet (it would take six times the amount of lactose to equal the sweetness level of table sugar). Instead, dairy ingredients like milk powder or whey powder are added to foods for other reasons, like texture and appearance.
• The federal definitions of many standard dairy products allow them to include lactose-containing dairy ingredients, like nonfat milk powder, while still allowing the product to be called “unsweetened.” Examples include unsweetened yogurt and no-sugar-added ice cream.
• Under FDA’s proposed definition, confusion would likely be created, since otherwise-identical dairy products would list or not list added sugars, depending on what ingredient was used. For example, a yogurt made with nonfat dry milk would be required to list added sugars, while the same yogurt made solely from skim milk would not list any added sugar.
NMPF also used its comments on the proposed revisions to the nutrition facts label to remind the FDA that it is allowing manufacturers of imitation dairy products, including soy “milk” and rice “yogurt,” to trick consumers into thinking their products are nutritionally equivalent to real-milk products.