Four pints milkA few weeks ago, the story blew up on blogs and social media that the dairy industry, namely the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), was petitioning the FDA to allow them to put aspartame along with other artificial sweeteners in milk. And while my family buys organic milk, which wouldn’t be affected by this request, I was right there in the mix and headed straight to the petition at to add my name to the protest list about adding “hidden” sweeteners to milk. I was doing a little reading recently and found out there is a BIT more to the story than was originally reported. (Isn’t there always?)

Here’s the real issue – and some surprising facts. Apparently, dairy manufacturers currently have the ability to add these artificial sweeteners to milk. AND, they have always had to reveal all ingredients. So no “hidden” aspartame, really. But, the change they want now is to remove the marketing labels on the front such as “Reduced calorie” or “Low Sugar” primarily because the dairy manufacturers think kids buying milk at school will not opt for these products. It’s a marketing request, not a “hidden ingredient” request.

But it brings up the interesting fact of “buyer beware” in our food industry. Wouldn’t you be more likely to look at the ingredients in a “low calorie” or “low fat” item? I choose fresh foods but can’t get around buying lots of packaged items and if any nutritional claims are made on those items, I do look at the labels more carefully. If I pick up milk or yogurt that is simply labeled as milk or yogurt, then it wouldn’t likely occur to me to check the ingredients label. This is the crux of the problem in my opinion. They want to remove the “clues” that the product I’m buying has been altered or added to in a way I might not like. Will “low-calorie yogurts” that often contain aspartame now simply say “yogurt” and it will be up to me to stand in the yogurt aisle amongst the dizzying array of choices and read every label? And yes, ice cream, yogurt, cream, and many other dairy products are included in the FDA Petition Request, so get ready to spend a little more time reading labels at the grocery store if this request is granted by the FDA.

So, even though the facts are a little more complex on the aspartame in milk issue, ultimately most consumers want transparency. Let’s make it easier for people to make the best nutritional choices instead of trying to confuse them by removing these “clues” to artificial ingredients in our food.

Here are a few other great blog articles and links about this issue as well:
The Lunch Tray
SpoonFed petition – which makes some wrong statements since this is not a “new” thing to allow artificial sweeteners, but simply a change in the way they can be labeled (or not labeled as the dairy industry prefers).

Go to the FDA site where you can leave a comment on the proposed rule.