The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has moved to defuse remaining consumer “confusion” surrounding the US dairy industry-filed request to amend the standard of identity for milk to include non-nutritive sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame.
In a notice posted on its website yesterday, the FDA claimed to have received more than 30,000 comments about the proposed rule since its ascension to the US Federal Register in February 2013. Based on those received to-date, there is a “fair amount of confusion about what the labelling change would actually mean,” it said.
The petition, which was filed by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) in March 2009, requested an amendment to the standard of identity for milk to allow milk flavouring ingredients to be sweetened with “any safe and suitable sweetener.”
According to the petitioners, approving their request would help stem the current milk consumption decline in US schools, and “level the playing field” with beverages that are allowed to use the sweeteners.
The proposed rule remains open for comment until 21 May 2013.
Petition generated “much interest – and confusion”
The notice added that many consumers are still “under the impression” that the addition of non-nutritive sweeteners will not be listed at all.
“The petition from the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) was published in public comment in the Federal Register and has generated much interest – and confusion,” said the FDA notice.
Under the current US regulation, manufacturers that include an ingredient not listed in the standard of identity are required to modify the main display panel of their product to exhibit “a nutrient content claim.”
For example, the replacement of a nutritive sweetener, such as sugar, with a non-nutritive sweetener, such as aspartame, in flavoured milk would reduce the calorie count of the product. Under the existing rule, words such as ‘reduced calorie’ would need to be displayed.
Under the proposed amendment, the inclusion of non-nutritive sweetener would still be listed as an ingredient, but manufacturers would not be required to provide “any additional description on the label.”
“People commenting in response to the Federal Register notice appear to be under the impression that the non-nutritive sweeteners will not be listed anywhere on the product – which is not the case. They would still be named in the ingredients list on the package,” said the FDA notice.
“Misinformation in the news and online”
Speaking with DairyReporter.com yesterday, IDFA vice president of communications, Peggy Armstrong, said that there has been “a lot of misinformation in the news and online” about the petition.
“Much of this incorrect information is being driven by activists, who are telling consumers that the dairy industry wants to add no-calorie sweeteners to white milk and to ‘hide’ the use of a no-calorie sweetener by not including it on the label,” said Armstrong. “Neither statement is true.”
“All ingredients would still be listed on the label. The dairy industry is working on many innovative products, using some new natural sweeteners including stevia and monk fruit juice. But no matter what is used by dairy food makers, anything that is an ingredient in the product – including all sweeteners – is on the label. And will always be on the label.”