The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have moved to dispel consumer “confusion” surrounding its request to permit the addition of sweeteners – including aspartame - to milk flavouring ingredients.
In March 2009, the IDFA and NMPF filed a petition with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting an amendment to the standard of identity for milk to allow optional characterising flavouring ingredients to be sweetened with “any safe and suitable” sweetener.
According to the petitioners, the amendment would help to stem the current milk consumption decline in US schools.
Last month, the FDA published the petition in the Federal Register and called for comments on the request.
Speaking on behalf of the petitioners, IDFA vice president of communications, Peggy Armstrong, told DairyReporter.com that these comments come from consumers who either “don’t understand” the requestor “disagree with what they think the petition proposes.”
“A lot of confusion” about the petition…
“The purpose was to be responsive to calls by federal agencies and consumers groups to include more options for lower-calorie milk and foods on school menus to help combat increases in childhood obesity,” said Armstrong.
“When FDA published the petition in February 2013, it generated a number of comments from consumers who don’t understand it or who disagree with what they think the petition proposes.”
“There has been a lot of confusion in the news lately about the petition the industry filed with FDA. Some people think we want to add zero calorie sweeteners to white milk. That’s not correct. Others think we want to use ingredients and not put them on the label. That’s not correct,” said Armstrong.
Despite the negative consumer feedback, Armstrong is confident that the industry request will be given FDA backing.
“We are confident that the FDA will consider the petition fairly and evaluate it based on sound science,” she said.
Consumer counter petition launched...
In response to the petitions ascension, US consumer group, SumOfUs, has launched a counter petition . The petition, Tell the FDA: We don’t want aspartame in our milk, urged the FDA not to bow to the industry request.
“The powerful dairy lobby is pushing the FDA to approve the artificial sweetener aspartame for use in dairy products. The goal is to turn the wholesome drink into another artificial flavour-laden sweet snack,” said a statement accompanying the petition.
“Tell the FDA to say no to hyper-sweeteners in healthy food. Stop aspartame from entering our milk.”
The petition has so-far gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
Counter petition based on “incorrect premise”
Commenting on the counter petition, Armstrong said that while the IDFA and NMPF welcome the feedback, the consumer petition is based on an “incorrect premise.”
“We welcome and value consumer input. Milk companies constantly respond to consumer requests for new products and more choices in the dairy aisle."
“The counter petition is based on an incorrect premise and misrepresents the commitment of America’s dairy industry to provide consumers with a variety of products that fit into a healthy diet lifestyle,” said Armstrong.
"They are not changing their regular chocolate milks. The industry’s petition would allow milk companies to offer a new kind of chocolate milk for those who want options,” she said.