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.