Nutrasweet in Milk–With No Label? Find Out What’s Really Going On

Government Wants to Put Nutrasweet in Milk with No Labels? Read What's Really Happening

Over the past week, there’s been a real buzz in the whole foodie blog realm about the government’s apparent push to add Nutrasweet (aspartame) to milk–with no labeling.

No label for Nutrasweet in milk?  You’ve got to be kidding me.

How could the government add anything to milk without putting it on the label?

I read several posts, including posts from The Healthy Home Economist and Natural News, and later, The Liberty Beacon and more.  This story has really gone all over the place.

After reading one of the above articles, I headed over to leave a comment for the FDA regarding this proposed legislation, and I stated that it would be wrong to add Nutrasweet to milk without putting it on the label, since some people have adverse reactions to it.

Then I started digging around the internet and found the above posts about Nutrasweet and milk were wrong.

I felt kind of like a fool.

If you read the comments on those posts, you’ll see that I was not the only confused and frustrated soul out there.

So–if the FDA isn’t saying that they want to put aspartame in milk without putting it in the ingredient list, what is the government really proposing?

Here’s some of the wording in the FDA notice that shows that the FDA is NOT talking about not putting the non-nutritive sweeteners in the ingredient list:

2. If the standard of identity for milk is amended as requested by petitioners, milk manufacturers could use non-nutritive sweeteners in flavored milk without a nutrient content claim in its labeling. Will the inclusion of the non-nutritive sweeteners in the ingredient statement provide consumers with sufficient information to ensure that consumers are not misled regarding the characteristics of the milk they are purchasing?

The government is proposing that, in the case of flavored dairy products (like Strawberry, Chocolate, and such), if the sweetener used is a non-nutritive one (like aspartame), then they want to be able to add it without writing “Reduced Calorie” on the label.

The government’s reasoning:

1.  The sweet taste will get more kids to drink milk.
2.  Children are “put off” by labels such as “Reduced Calorie” and would likely pass up this kind of beverage/food in favor of sugar-laden items that can cause weight gain.
3.  Flavored milks and dairy products with sugar and honey, etc., in them are not labeled in any special way, so why should things be different for these alternative sweeteners.
4. Children will be less likely to become obese by drinking flavored milks with low calorie sweeteners.

I get it–kind of.

My thoughts:

1.  Do we really want kids drinking a lot more pasteurized milk?  I personally think raw milk is more the way to go.
2.   “Reduced Calorie” labeling has always helped consumers know that there is an artificial sweetener in a product, prompting consumers to read the ingredients.
3.  This is deceptive and likely those with adverse reactions to Nutrasweet will unknowingly consume these foods and have problems.  Nutrasweet gave me insomnia in my diet soda drinking days, so I am not a fan at all.

If you’re going to sweeten milk, or other dairy products, I say “put it up there– front and center”.

And–the wording in the FDA notice is quite creepy, to be sure:  ”Flavored Milk; Petition to Amend the Standard of Identity for Milk and 17 Additional Dairy Products“.  Ick.  Leave the identity of milk alone, OK?

Now for my other concern.

I am frustrated with sensationalist health-related journalism that isn’t backed up by facts.

If you have a blog where upwards of 79,000 folks are sharing your posts (in the case of Natural News), you need to be responsible and at least read the  documents that you are making bold statements about.

I have nothing against “grab your attention” headlines (unless they are really over the top or really sexual in nature), but I do have a problem with shoddy journalism that leads to fear-mongering and wrong thinking.

Perhaps these bloggers were basing their information off of what they read elsewhere, but in each case, the original source really needed to be checked.

When you are sharing info with tons of followers (Natural News has 10 million page views per month), you really need to be careful to get the fact right.

To be fair, maybe they are planning to correct the misinformation. I hope so. My life is busy and sometimes I can’t get to things as soon as I would like. And I really do like so much of what Sarah has to say on her blog that I hope she’ll come out and acknowledge this mistake.

Does that mean I never do anything wrong?

No.

But when I do, I do my best to go back and correct things.  (Check out my posts on Natural Dishwasher Rinse Aid, and my series on Best Essential Oils where I needed to back away from brands I had been promoting.)

The lessons here?

Do your homework.  Don’t believe everything you read.

Read your labels.

Admit when you’re wrong.

I think the labels should stay as they are to prevent consumer confusion.  I hope you’ll go and add your voice to the petition to leave things as they are, by clicking here.  Comments will be taken through 5/21/13.  I wasn’t quite sure what to put in the “Organization’s Name” space.  I put my blog name. I think you could just write “none” if need be.

To be completely clear, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation petitioned the FDA to do this.  But the FDA is proposing it by putting it out to the public for comments.  The way I read this is that all 3 are proposing this.
For more on the FDA:
- Probiotics are Dangerous–Arsenic is Safe
- Could You Go to Jail for Drinking Raw Milk?
- FDA Poised to Ban Supplements in the U.S. 

What do you think about removing “Reduced Calorie” Labeling? 

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/ 

 Shared at Premeditated Leftovers, Far Above Rubies, Time Warp Wife, The Nourishing Gourmet, GNOWFGLINS, The Shabby Creek Cottage, Not Just a Housewife, This Chick Cooks, and Chef in Training.

Comments

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  1. Thank you for reminding us the internet can be wrong. I saw the Healthy Home Economist post and wondered, plus the news presented it incorrectly, too.

    I think everything should be listed in any product if they’re going to add something to it. Beyond the fact that people want to know what they’re eating, there’s the issue of allergies and food sensitivities.

    I’m so glad you spoke up and did some digging.

    • I didn’t see it on the news, but it looked like Huffington Post had to do some backtracking about wrong information that they had posted. I feel bad that I didn’t dig before signing the petition. Do you think “Reduced Calorie” needs to be on the front of the package?

  2. Why Nutrasweet? Why can’t it be something that’s been proven to be a much safer sweetner, like Stevia? Seriously!

  3. I read in the article that they want to put it in the flavored milk at schools. The last time I checked there are not any labels whatsoever on the plastic milk containers at our local schools. Will children know what has it in there or not. I wish all states could sell raw milk but they sadly do not. I can not buy it here in my state and there are such restrictions in many others now.I would love to have asource for it.
    It may be a labeling issue per say but I feel it is being deceptive to lure our children to drink it. And artificial sweeteners causes weight gain not loss. They really do not have a clue do they?

    • I did some digging into artificial sweeteners and weight gain – it looks a little inconclusive. Hard to tell – but I don’t like Nutrasweet regardless. The raw milk regulations are ridiculous.

      • the neurological implications alone are scary enough.

      • Loved reading your article! I agree on raw milk living in Florida we obviously cant buy it. When I can get it I have to pay $12 gallon. Which is quite a lot. We stick to organic and now my kids won’t drink anything else. They taste the difference. We don’t drink soda just fresh oj, club soda and water. I have nothing at home with fake sugar in it. I will keep reading your blog!

  4. I also saw this in the headlines recently. Here is a super article that i read last week about the truth of it as well. http://dairycarrie.com/2013/02/26/the-aspartame-in-milk-controversy/

    • Very good article- thanks! But to be fair, it this passes, it will be a little harder to notice the artificial sweeteners than it is now.

  5. They have to label aspartame in things because phenylketonurics (people with phenylketonuria, or the inability to metabolize phenylalanine)cannot ingest aspartame, and they must be warned. There is no way that they can sneak aspartame into things without warning us.

    • That’s what I thought – after signing the petition. I was in such a rush to “do something.”

    • We have a child that cannot handle phenylalanine. He doesn’t have phynlketonuria but another metabolic disorder and he gets very ill and has to be hospitalized when he ingests it. Aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium (aka acesulfame K), and sucralose are all sweeteners that cause phynlalanine. They are already in flavored milks that you purchase. Sucralose and acesulfame K are often found in juices that say “no added sugar”, they are in breads (we couldn’t buy “all natural whole grain” bread anymore because it contained sucralose. Even Maleluca food products contain these sweeteners. The FDA has been allowing these sweeteners into foods without any special labeling thusfar. It does not surprise me that they want to hide the content of sweetener in milk by merely listing it in the ingredients. If you don’t have a health issue that requires you to read labels on everything then you would never notice it was in the milk or anything else.

      • Thanks for sharing. I wasn’t aware that the other sweeteners could cause similar issues. What happens to your son? All natural breads contain sucralose? I haven’t been doing much grocery store shopping so that is a shocker to me.

      • Not all “natural” breads contain sucralose, but some “all-natural” breads do. I have learned to read all of the ingredients! It’s amazing to me that food manufacturers are allowed to sneak artificial sweeteners into so many foods where you wouldn’t expect them. I am sensitive to them and have an unpleasant reaction–I don’t have to be hospitalized or anything, but I feel anxious, simultaneously hungry and nauseated, and like everything is too bright and too dark at the same time–so I try to avoid ingesting any fake sugar, and for me this includes stevia–anything super-sweet but non-caloric freaks out my body even if I eat a relatively small amount. Chewing gum is okay. Sometimes I feel funny after eating in a restaurant and have to wonder if they have fake sugars in their bread, salad dressing, or what. >:-(

        • I wonder if you are so sensitive to alternative sweeteners, aren’t you likely having reactions to artificial “other” ingredients then as well?

          • It’s possible that I’m sometimes reacting to other ingredients. When I have that particular kind of reaction and can read the ingredients of what I ate/drank, though, it’s always involved some kind of non-caloric sweetener. Aspartame is the worst, but I’ve reacted to others as well.

  6. This doesn’t immediately effect me in Australia but it’s so disappointing that this is even an issue. If only we could educate kids more about avoiding junk foods – not altogether but most of the time. It’s a huge uphill battle when they are totally surrounded by it. Makes me sad.

  7. Bethany says:

    The government’s reasoning:

    1. The sweet taste will get more kids to drink milk.
    This makes me crazy!! Why do kids need sweet things!!!???

  8. Thank you. I personally am highly allergic to All artificial sweeteners. Swollen tongue, throat..anaphylaxis with just 1 sip. I can’t afford to take the chance.

    • You are so welcome. For someone like you I wish they would leave well enough alone. This would make it too hard to tell that those sweeteners are in there. Thanks for sharing.

    • Oh, one question. Really–all sweeteners? Which has the happened for? That seems quite odd. Thanks in advance.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I guess I’m reading different blogs – I’ve always understood that they just want to sweeten the milk with artificial sweetener and not call it low-calorie, however, I thought all the uproar was about that University of Wisconsin study showing a steady diet of aspartame & dairy combined to cause brain seizures…

    • I’m glad you were reading right information. If you search “nutrasweet milk government label” you will see TONS of blogs with the wrong info.

  10. My personal thoughts? I like the every ingredient idea – don’t couch anything under “natural flavors”, “artificial flavors”, “additives” or “preservatives”, etc. Be honest. If you can’t tell me exactly what it is, I don’t think I want it in my body, ya know? The days of “secret recipes” and “secret formulas” are gone due to food allergies and sensitivities in my book, and just because you list the ingredients, doesn’t mean someone is going to figure out your exact blend, if you know what I mean. I also think our ideas of “healthy” are so messed up, same with “natural” and even “organic” doesn’t mean what it did. I think, list what’s in the product honestly and fully and let the consumer decide. {end rant}

  11. Good job getting to the facts Adrienne! Thank you for that. And otherwise – very well said!

  12. I see the bigger issue as this is the first step to removing specific information from the labels. First they start adding poisonous aspartame to the milk and put it on the ingredient list. Then after the public gets used to it they will want to change the label to ‘sweeteners’ just like they have with ‘artificial flavoring’ . I want to try to prevent this as I am allergic to artificial sweeteners of all kinds and want to be able to make an informed decision when I purchase a product.

    • I think it is a rotten deal as well. Go add your comment to the petition and make sure you mention your allergies and medical concerns. That should get their attention. And spread it around.

  13. Just yesterday on Dr. Oz there was a guest who said that artificial sweeteners still affect your insulin levels and that if you followed test subjects over a period of 8 years, one group consuming sugar, and the other artificial sweeteners, those on artificial sweeteners would have gained more weight. So, the claim that adding this to sweetened milks will help stop obesity is false.

    I think that if they do this, there should be a huge nutrasweet logo on the milk jug. I don’t buy milk as we can’t have dairy, but I dislike when anything is labeled covertly. A few times I’ve gotten what I tout was natural flavored carbonated waters only to find in that first sip the flavor of artificial sweeteners. But there was little on the bottle to give any indication that it was in there except in the ingredients list. I’d like to know when “no added sugar” became code for “added artificial sweeteners.” So frustrating.

    • I have heard that as well about gaining weight. It’s confusing. I think this stuff needs to be “front and center”. Plain and simple.

  14. manuel martinez says:

    the thing they aren’t telling us the consumer is that they are not going to add aspartame specifically to milk. what they are doing is opening the door to add whatever they want in the future to milk like aspartame,NutraSweet,sugar,dirt,chalk or whatever without putting it on the label which in my opinion is even more dubious and evil.you really should understand your subject these kind of people who do this are the same kind who are ruining the government.and as for the natural news he does a great job and looks into things that others dont i think he is a hard working journalist who has few allies in the truth movement as for you please understand poking at others without really understanding things yourself shows your foolishness.

    • Manuel, did you read my post where I said that they are not talking about not putting ingredients on the ingredient list – they are talking about not putting “reduced calorie” on the front of the label. I am not keen on that but it is a different thing completely. Regarding Natural News, he does have some good info but this is the 5th time (that I have found) where he has published totally misleading content and doesn’t appear to be doing good journalistic work. And I am surprised to hear you say he has “few allies in the truth movement” when I see the number of shares on his posts and the number of page views he gets. That is about the furthest thing from the “truth”.

      I did just a little bit of research and found the problems in many of his posts. Mike has a full staff. He should be able to do a better job than this.

      Can you show me, please, where they are saying that they are not going to put Nutrasweet on the ingredient list? Again, I said I think this is a horrible idea, but the NN post has it completely wrong. Many commenters on his post see the problem with what he wrote as well. Thanks for commenting and I would love to hear back from you if you have more info.

  15. Mother of 2 says:

    Seiously, Brain seizures.? Tell me, where the heck else can you have a seizure from. Your toe?
    Don’t drink flavored milk, period. It is quite obvious it is full of sugars and dyes and is just plain unhealthy.
    Too bad some states like the one I live in won’t allow the sale of raw milk for human consumption.

  16. Great post, Adrienne, thanks! :)

  17. I had to stop reading Natural News for that very reason. I’ll pop over there once in awhile just to see what craziness they’re spouting. Mike should just rename the site “My Anti-Government, Libertarian Agenda” and be done with it.

    • I am very frustrated with out government and I consider myself to be “leaning libertarian” in a lot of ways, but I do not like unsubstantiated reporting and fear mongering just to get views or sales. That is a different story. Thanks for commenting!

  18. Good for you for researching the story before you promoted it!

    The true story is annoying enough! If honest labels are discouraging kids from consuming a product, maybe we need to work on the kids’ understanding of what their bodies need, instead of on new ways to deceive them! If we get kids to drink more milk by adding artificial flavorings and sweeteners to milk, that’s not teaching them to drink milk; that’s teaching them to drink sweet colorful drinks. Not only is it unlikely to lead to their drinking plain, healthy milk in future, it’s likely to work AGAINST it.

    I think flavored milks should be banned from school lunches. Kids should have a choice of plain milk or plain water. The milk served in schools is full of toxins and hormones, so the protein and calcium in it might be better obtained from food sources anyway. To my surprise, my son (now 8) has agreed with me on this since he first started attending a school that serves flavored milk: He thinks the colored milks are disgusting, and he’s noticed that the kids who drink them are hyper for a while after breakfast and lunch, then fall into a slump. Most of the kids who bring their lunches at his school bring water to drink. I’m so glad to hear that because when I was a kid, I would have been laughed out of the lunchroom for bringing water–lunchbox kids brought Koolaid or soda or juice or flavored milk; the school offered plain or chocolate milk, and only the kids who were allergic to chocolate or went to the church that didn’t allow chocolate would drink the plain milk, so I drank chocolate milk every day for years…but at least it had real cocoa powder and real sugar and nothing else except added vitamins.

    • I think you are right. We only drink water, or stevia-sweetened lemonade or coconut milk. That’s pretty much it! I wonder that the kids are able to do much of anything w/ all the junk they eat and drink. Very sad.

  19. Thank you Adrienne for doing the research and writing an informative post for the rest of us. I completely agree with many of the other commenters that our food and drink should be clearly labeled so consumers can make informed decisions in their OWN nutrition. There are many people out there with allergies and sensitivities to artificial sweeteners. The labels need to state that the product contains them if it does. We need change, and we need to voice this. Thank you for providing the link to comment. I have chosen to use my voice as a consumer even though we typically do not purchase these particular products. We are a raw milk family as well. We need to speak for those who do not have a voice, the children of our nation. They will/are the main focus of this, and we need to speak out for them. I personally do not believe in the use of chemical sweeteners and do not feel that this is a healthy diet for our children, or ourselves. Investing in proper education about nutrition, and encouraging physical activity would be much more beneficial when it comes to fighting obesity and creating awareness.

  20. I think the idea of luring kids to drink more milk by offering them candy milk is misguided in the first place. I think the idea of giving children aspartame is terrible. I think limiting the ways in which these ingredients are labeled is terrible – it should be extremely clear to consumers that their milk contains more than milk, or in this case milk and chocolate syrup. And, by the way, I was also irritated by the way this reported. I am outraged by the continual fight to have food labeled appropriately, but facts are really important in the debate. Thanks for publishing a careful account.

    • You are so welcome. I have more posts that I hope to share that should clear up inaccuracies in the whole food realm. I just need more time :).

  21. Thanks so much for your clarification of this! As you said, there’s been something close to mass hysteria out there concerning the Aspertame in Milk issue.

    As someone who is EXTREMELY sensitive to artificial sweeteners, it really distresses me that they would propose adding this toxic sweetener to flavored milk without labeling it as a “reduced calorie” or “sugar free” product – but I’m not surprised. I’m finding more and more products in the grocery store that are using artificial sweeteners and not labeling their product so that you would know that just by looking (gum and fruit juices seem to be the worst offendors).

    My best advice to people is never to trust the front of any food package – because that’s all about trying to sell you something. You’ve really got to READ FOOD LABELS!

  22. I am a parent to a child struggling to overcome an eating disorder & in wish “low calorie” was taken off labels completely. Lets be more factual and say “artificial sweeteners” or “sugar substitute” instead of always pointing to the weight-loss features.

  23. I don’t know if it needs to say “Reduced Calorie”, but it needs to say something — “Sugar free”. That’s the other trigger phrase that lets me know they are using an artificial sweetener.

    Personally, I think we should be getting kids away from drinking milk — except for some kids that’s the only way they get any of these nutrients that they could better receive through eating fresh vegetables. We are a crazy milk-drinking culture, and I hope to some day see us move away from it, but I doubt that will ever happen.

    (Reading from the Better Mom’s Monday Linkup)

  24. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not read labels or even give a passing thought to what they are eating, very sad. Keep the conversation going and maybe more will take the initiative. Thanks for sharing on Hearth & Soul Hop. :)

  25. OK so on this one I will speak my mind! This is not the FDA requesting anything. This is two of our Nation’s most powerful food associations, the IDFA (International Dairy Foods Association ) and the NMPF (National Milk Producers Federation ) petitioning the FDA to essentially put any non-nutritive sweeteners – the most harmful being aspartame – without our knowledge of what we are consuming.

    The words “amend the standard of identity” for milk, says it all. That means that milk could be defined as milk with added ingredient – in this case any non-nutritive sweeteners, added and never identified on the label. That is wrong, plain and simple. I have the right to know what’s in my food. We have a right to know what’s in our foods.

    These “associations” claim their purpose is to promote healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity. This could not be further from the truth; their purpose is to sell more milk.

    Aspartame, in particular, is one of the most dangerous food additives on today’s market. It was initially rejected for our public food supply by the FDA because of the studies showing seizures and brain tumors in rats but then under pressure from, believe it or not, Donald Rumsfeld –who then was a highly paid consultant for a large conglomerate corporation known as Searle, it was allowed. Every molecule of aspartame produces a molecule of methanol in our bodies! From Dr. Woodrow Moole’s site (link deleted by blog owner) Our human bodies react differently to aspartame than any other animals.

    And weight loss, not even go there, it’s just the opposite. Besides, that whole premise is so wrong. Not that I believe in drinking milk altogether but whole fat, unpasteurized milk would be the way to go. We need, and healthy fats to develop our brains, create and control our stress and sex hormones and protect every cell in our bodies. The food associations low fat/ low cholesterol diets being pushed on us over the last 20 years are killing us. We are creating a generation of even sicker, fatter and chronically ill children that will grow into sicker and fatter and ill adults.. Please, please, please learn the dangers of aspartame and stop this from happening.