Bad publicity for the dairy industry

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Breaking News Thursday evening, one of the featured stories on the Yahoo! home page showed a picture of milk jugs with the headline, “Controversial ingredient may be added to milk.”

“The dairy industry has asked the FDA to approve an additive that (has) been linked to depression and diabetes,” the subhead read. 

According to the story itself, the dairy industry would like to use non-nutritive sweeteners, such as aspartame, in flavored milk, yogurt and other foods.

In a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation pointed out that “safe and suitable” alternatives to sugar or high-fructose syrup would produce less calories in the foods, which would promote more healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity. 

Another issue is whether non-nutritive sweeteners should be included on the label of dairy foods. Some of the news media reports on this may have been misleading. For instance, the Yahoo! article suggests that the dairy industry wants non-nutritive sweeteners excluded from the label ― something the industry disputes (as noted in the National Milk Producers Federation statement below).

The Yahoo! article also mentions a number of health-related concerns that have arisen over the use of aspartame in diet soda. 

Tuesday, the National Milk Producers Federation issued the following statement on the non-nutritive sweetener petition:

“As required by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food labeling regulations, all food products that include non-nutritive sweeteners as an ingredient must be clearly labeled and include the name of the sweetener on the package’s ingredient statement.

“The FDA petition would not change any existing requirements that aspartame, sucralose or any other non-nutritive sweetener be included in the list of ingredients if it is present.

“This petition was initially filed with FDA several years ago to help address the growing issues surrounding both caloric limits and added sugars for flavored milk sold in schools. Some schools have removed flavored milk altogether, resulting in less consumption of milk by children and less consumption of milk’s important nutrients. Allowing the use of FDA-approved sweeteners in flavored milk will allow those consumers who want a lower-calorie flavored milk to have that choice.”

Friday morning, NBC News came out with an article that appears more accurate than some of the other stories to date ― at least the NBC article contacted dairy industry representatives. Read “Chocolate milk fight: Industry asks FDA to ease fake sweetener rules.”

At the International Dairy Foods Association annual meeting in January, IDFA CEO Connie Tipton suggested modernizing federal standards of identity for dairy products ― among other things, to allow the use of non-nutritive sweeteners.

For example, under current standards, manufacturers cannot use non-nutritive sweeteners and label the product as chocolate milk. Allowing the use of non-nutritive sweeteners would allow chocolate milk to be more competitive with other beverages and help manufacturers formulate products that meet dietary guidelines that require fewer calories per serving.

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Kentucky  |  March, 01, 2013 at 09:20 AM

Why not just cut back on the real sugar to less grams per ounce and call it a day. They are over sugared to start with and can still be as tasty with less. Many people have allergies to artificial sweeteners and there is also studies coming out now that suggest artificial sweeteners increase obesity. Children need food with less artificial ingredients.

Michigan  |  March, 04, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Cmcg...I agree...we as dairy farmers love our white and chocolate milk, but I did mix 1/2 of each to make a better drink choice. The processors have since cut back on the sugar. My kids love the 1/2 mixture, and I like the improved formula I can buy in the stores. I still stick with Whole Milk, not the 1%, etc. I still think kids need good fats for brain development. My 8 year old drinks 1/2 gal of whole milk daily and is skinny as a rail!

doylestown pa  |  March, 01, 2013 at 09:21 AM

How can there be a problem with a ingredient that is already approved by FDA, secondly why dont they use Stevia that is an approved natural herb already being used by 1/4 of the beverage industry. Who apprtoves and allows these tabloids and news media people to release this information to the public. Just another example of how the higher up people in the dairy industry dont care or have enough fortitude to stand up when we need them to.

Nate Kringle    
March, 01, 2013 at 10:54 AM

Darrin, What they asked for was to allow non-caloric sweetners (ie, not sugar) to be added to flavored milk. This category includes both Aspartame and Stevia, so they could use either one under their proposed regulations. As the FDA definition of flavored milk is now written it can't contain a non-caloric sweetener, if it does it becomes a dairy beverage or milk shake rather than flavored milk.

New York State  |  March, 01, 2013 at 11:14 AM

I am allergic to all artifical sweeteners, so I agree with Cmcg from Kentucky about using it inplace of sugar in any milk product.

Willard WI  |  March, 01, 2013 at 01:33 PM

Why dont we just leave milk the way mother nature made it instead of making some new drink to sell to uninformed consumers. or package it differently or something. Just saying

Vermont  |  March, 01, 2013 at 01:44 PM

Bad Publicity?? No! The articles may have incorrect statements, but that is often the case no matter the subject of an aritcle! This headline story give dairy a great opportunity to discuss with the greater public the challenge of meeting the school lunch restrictions! The public needs to understand why they should drink milk, why it is being pulled from schools, and what nutrients the kids will be missing in their diets without milk! Ask the public and the parents this question: "If your child will not be drinking milk at school, what will they be drinking instead??"

wi  |  March, 01, 2013 at 02:25 PM

I agree!

Barb T.    
Mifflinburg, PA  |  March, 01, 2013 at 05:32 PM

Let's leave MILK be what it was intended to be. It is all natural and adding and taking away destroys all the nutritional value. When I was growing up on the dairy farm, our family drank whole milk. Never hurt us. Now they have skim milk which you might as well drink water, 1% and 2% regular milk, 1% chocolate milk. It is no wonder the kids do not like milk nowadays. Putting it in plastic jugs, cardboard cartons, does not help the flavor at all. They need to go back to the glass containers. Everybody is so concerned about child obesity. Well, let me tell you when we drank whole milk we were not obese. Why, cause we worked. We did not sit in front of the TV, play video games, or have a computer. That is the main reason why children nowadays have weight problems, it is not caused by drinking MILK. It is the fast foods, sugared snacks, and other junk food. Again, leave Milk alone. By adding ingredients to it, and diluting it, simply takes all the nutritional value out of a very natural product which most children need in their growing years. Always doing something to ruin the few dairy farmers that are still hanging on and trying to survive.

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