With the government's desire for children to be fed healthy food and drinks while at school, some schools have cut back on serving flavored milk. With the lowest level of sales since 1984, the milk industry is trying to find ways to stay competitive in a market where sports drinks and bottled water have taken the place of milk. The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) is asking the Food & Drug Administration for permission to use aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to sweeten flavored milk sold in the U.S.
On February 26, the Huffington Post reported that the dairy industry wants to add these artificial sweeteners without adhering to certain front-label disclosures, in order to keep the product attractive to the target consumer—school children. These front label disclosures would include phrases like "reduced calorie" or "reduced sugar" the kind of thing kids might scrunch their noses at.
Petition to abandon front label disclosures
The dairy industry is petitioning the FDA for permission to abandon required front label disclosures for flavored milk products as well as for 17 other dairy products that have nothing to do with schools.
"In addition to milk, the petition asks FDA to modify the standards for 17 other dairy products at the same time for administrative efficiency. These products include nonfat dry milk, sour cream, evaporated milk, whipping cream and yogurt." -- International Dairy Foods Association
The IDFA has been candidly honest, admitting the labeling change might curtail the decline in student milk consumption. The industry's main arguments focus on children and suggest labels such as "reduced calorie" are not attractive to kids. This may be true, but the addition of artificial sweeteners in school milk raises more questions. First is the question of whether or not artificial sweeteners are healthy for children. Dr. Bill Sears of the Wellness Institute suggests they have no place in a child's diet.
"There is reason to believe that artificial sweeteners have no place in the diets of growing children, especially ones who already have problems behaving and learning. " – Dr. Bill Sears Wellness Institute
Secondly, the use of these sweeteners do nothing to help wean children from eating (or drinking) too many sweet tasting foods.
FDA regulations currently do not require front label disclosures for milk products that contain "nutritive sweeteners" (those with calories) which the agency deems as safe. This includes sugar and high fructose corn syrup. The industry wants the same to hold true for products sweetened artificially.