In March 2009, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) requested an amendment to the standard of identity for milk to allow milk flavouring ingredients to be sweetened with “any safe and suitable sweetener” – including aspartame.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register by the FDA earlier this year. It is open for public comment until 21 May 2013.
With a decision on the proposed amendment drawing ever closer, SumOfUs invested in advertising space – placing its “Got Aspartame in your kids’ milk?” on the side of 15 Washington D.C. buses that stop directly outside FDA headquarters.
Milk will become “artificially-sweetened junk food”
The SumOfUs poster features a glass of chocolate milk and the phrase, “Got Aspartame in your kids’ milk?” - a parody of the long-standing ‘Got Milk?’ campaign.
“Hey FDA,” it continues. “If the dairy lobby gets it way, milk marketed to our kids will become more of an artificially-sweetened junk food. We don’t want that!”
“Sincerely, 112,372 people who signed a petition to the FDA on SumOfUs.org,” the poster concludes.
That number has since risen to more than 117,000.
In a statement announcing the launch of the bus-side ad campaign, SumOfUs campaign manager, Kaytee Riek, accused the food industry of working to develop products that “trick our brain into over-consuming.”
"America’s obesity epidemic is no secret, and food companies’ use of aspartame, and other dangerous additive like it, shouldn’t be either,” said Riek.
“Being a parent is hard enough without having to worry about pumping your child full of hyper-sweet chemical additives that rewire children’s brains to make them tiny consumption machines. Foods including aspartame and similar additives need to be clearly labelled so that parent can make smart, informed decisions about what they’re feeding their children,” she said.
“Nutrient content claim” currently required
Under the current FDA legislation, food 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 sugar with a non-nutritive sweetener in flavoured milk would reduce the calorie count of the product. Under the existing rule, a phrase such as ‘reduced calorie’ would need to be displayed.
However, under the proposed amendment, the inclusion of a non-nutritive sweetener, such as aspartame, would be listed as an ingredient but manufacturers would not be obliged to provide “any additional description on the label.”