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?
Does the Government Not Want to Label Nutrasweet in Milk?
After reading multiple articles on the topic, 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 that many of the posts on the internet about this Nutrasweet and milk issue were actually incorrect.
I felt kind of like a fool.
If you read the comments on those posts, however, 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.
1. "Reduced Calorie" labeling has always helped consumers know that there is an artificial sweetener in a product, prompting consumers to read the ingredients.
2. This is confusing labeling 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".
3. If you want to use a sweetener in milk, I think it would be better to use something more natural, like stevia.
And--the wording in the FDA notice could be a little better, but isn't that the case with many official documents?: "Flavored Milk; Petition to Amend the Standard of Identity for Milk and 17 Additional Dairy Products".
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 on 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, at the time of this posting, has 10 million page views per month), you really need to be careful to get the facts 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?
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 of these associations / organizations are proposing this.
What do you think about removing "Reduced Calorie" Labeling?