Diet Milk? Learn more about what is being proposed...
Once again, the dairy industry is deep in controversy. Yet, what is interesting this time is that the hype is surrounding a change in labeling on milk and yogurt products that was proposed four years ago. The media picked up on it after it was highlighted on the Dr. Oz show this past week, though even before that the petition was making its rounds quite steadily on social media. So, what is actually being proposed?
Back in 2009 the National Milk Producers Federation and International Dairy Foods Association filed a petition with the FDA on milk standards-of-identity with the goal to offer reduced calorie flavored milk. As they included a request to omit the ‘reduced calorie’ claim on the front of the label, many people misinterpreted the request by assuming the dairy industry was actually going to begin adding artificial sweeteners such as aspartame without any labeling indication. However, according to the Dairy Industry of Michigan, “the FDA petition would not change any existing requirements that aspartame be included in the list of ingredients on flavored milk or any other dairy product. The industry is asking that safe and suitable sweeteners other than sugar be used to reduce the overall carbohydrates in the milk. All ingredients would still be listed.”
The Low Down
Essentially, for the dairy drinkers out there, your classic glass of white, unflavored milk is still going to be milk. The change will only impact the chocolate, strawberry, and other flavored milks of the world, as some will not include artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. The dairy industry is basically trying to create yet another option to their beverage line-up as many other beverages already have – think Powerade Zero, Diet Coke, Trop50, or Minute Maid Light. Many beverages offer the choice of the natural sugar containing or sugar added version, versus the zero added sugar version that typically contains a zero-calorie artificial sweetener instead.
I find it interesting that the dairy industry does NOT want to market their artificially sweetened flavored milks as reduced calorie or light or diet or whatever, because those claims tend to boost sales for other beverages. But, from what I understand, they are more worried about further deterring kids from opting for milk in the lunch line.
So, what now?
White non-flavored milk will still contain milk sugar or lactose and is a healthy choice that is recommended along with water to complement our everyday meals. Yet, when you choose flavored milk, whether chocolate or strawberry, know that you are getting added sugars – those containing calorie containing sugars and others with zero-calorie sugar substitutes. We will simply have to flip over the product to find out what it is we are getting.
If this proposal goes through and the front of the package label is omitted, we, as consumers, will simply have to use our common sense. Continue to pick up the food or beverage you are considering and read the ingredient statement – at least, that is, if you appreciate knowing what it is you are actually eating.
If you choose to avoid artificial sweeteners, there is still time to express your opposition to the dairy industry through a petition to the FDA which will prevent the addition of “chemical sweeteners to milk and 16 other dairy products” without being clearly advertised on the front of the package. If you want to see this listed on the front of the package, please contact the FDA to share your comments before May 21st.