Nutrasweet in Milk–But Not On the Label?

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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?

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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.

My thoughts

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? 

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  1. Why not switch to coconut or almond milk, which is far healthier? Kids shouldn’t be drinking cow’s milk. No one should

    1. I know so many people on both sides of the cow’s milk aisle. I don’t drink it but I was drinking some goat kefir recently and I love cheese – but it doesn’t love me right now. Sigh.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 🙂

  4. 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)

    1. Welcome! Thanks for sharing. I am not a big milk fan either, but we do have cheese in our home. Hard to know what to think about it.

    2. Its not just products labelled sugar free that contain artificial sweetners. Check out regular Vimto and Robinsons squash for example you will see them in the ingredients list now..

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

    1. Great points. There is so much junk in processed foods….we buy almost none at all. Thanks again!

  7. 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.

    1. 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 :).