The petition, which was filed with the FDA 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.”
It was published in the US Federal Register in February 2013, was open for public comment until yesterday (21 May 2013).
If the request is accepted by the FDA, front-of-package labels for flavoured milk products will no longer indicate that artificial sweeteners - such as aspartame or sucralose - have been added.
In a comment submitted to the FDA, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics requested that the petition “be denied in its entirety.”
Fails to cite "sound scientific or factual data"
Dairy processors that include an ingredient not listed in the standard of identity for milk are currently required to modify the main display panel of their product to exhibit a “nutrient content claim” such as ‘reduced-calorie’.
According to the dairy industry petition, phrases such as this do not appeal to children and have contributed to a decline in consumption in US schools.
Approving the request would help to stem this decline, the IDFA and the NMPF claimed.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics comment submitted to the FDA there is a lack of evidence to verify this.
“The petition largely focuses on the perceived benefits to children of revising milk’s standard of identity, including petitioners’ assertion that the proposed amendments would promote more healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity.”
But according to the Academy, the petition “fails to cite the requisite convincing, sound scientific or factual data showing that the recommended amendments will promote honesty and dairy dealing in the interest of consumers.”
“As such, the Academy respectfully requests that the petition as submitted be denied in its entirety, with petitioners offered the opportunity to petition for a revision only to milk’s standard of identity that ensures consumers are made aware whenever artificial sweeteners are added to flavoured milk on the principal display panel,” said the comment.
“Got Aspartame in your kids’ milk?”
Since its ascension to the US Federal Register earlier this year, the petition has consistently come under fire from consumer groups.
Recently, US consumer group, SumOfUs, purchased advertising space on the side of 15 Washington D.C. buses that stop directly outside FDA HQ in a last-ditch attempt to convince the authority not to approve the requested amendment.