SAN DIEGO – You’ve heard of Diet Coke, but how about diet milk?
The dairy industry is asking the Food and Drug Administration to allow it to add artificial sweeteners to some milk and dairy products. But it does not want to advertise “reduced calories” in a prominent place on the label of the product.
The idea has been in the making for almost four years, but it is sparking national uproar this week because the FDA is looking for the public’s input on the issue.
In an effort to reduce childhood obesity and boost milk sales, the International Diary Association (IDEA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have petitioned the FDA to change the definition of Milk and 17 other dairy products, including sour cream, yogurt and half and half. The change, would allow the dairy industry to add aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to those products without including prominent labels for consumers.
“I think that is just horrible,” said Aileen Taketa of San Diego. “Something like that needs to be right on the front label so we know what is in the food we are consuming.”
“There’s a lot of stuff in our foods that they don’t tell us about,” said Richard Mazon of San Diego. “I don’t see what the big deal is.”
Artificial sweeteners would still have to be listed under the ingredients on the product.
The trade associations stress that the intention is not to add artificial sweeteners to all milk, it is mainly interested in adding it to flavored milks.
The petition states: “Studies have shown that school-age children are more likely to consume flavored milk over regular milk, so if the downward trend in milk consumption in schools is to be reversed, there needs to be better options available for lower-calorie flavored milk.”
But adding artificial sweetener in kids drinks is a hot button issue for many families.
“To me aspartame is poisonous,” said Kim Stead, a San Diego mother. “Adding that to help with Obesity is not the answer.”
Mazon believes adding artificial sweeteners to milk could help childhood obesity.
“If it’s gonna cut down on having chubby kids running around then I think it will be better,” Mazon said.
The FDA will accept online comments from the public about this issue until May 21, 2013.