Artificially sweetened “milk?”

Got (diet) milk?

No? Well, soon you might.

The dairy industry is looking to create low-calorie milk by replacing the sugar added to milk with artificial sweeteners, like aspartame.

The move, however, has ignited a debate over milk labels. At the center of the debate is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “standard of identity” requirement.

The requirement means if a manufacturer wants to include an ingredient that is not among those in the product’s standard of identity, the name of the food on the package’s main display panel must be modified with a nutrient content claim (“reduced calorie,” for example) to show how it has been changed, according to the FDA.

The dairy industry has petitioned the FDA, asking the regulatory agency to amend the standard of identity for flavored milk and 17 other dairy products (including nonfat dairy milk, heavy cream, eggnog, half-and-half, and sour cream) so that non-nutritive sweeteners are among the standard ingredients.

If successful, the petition would mean manufacturers wouldn’t have to change the description on the label to include “reduced calorie” or other clauses.

Either way, manufacturers would have to include the artificial sweetener on the ingredient list.

The dairy industry wants to do away with the “reduced calorie” wording because its “not attractive to children” and the proposed amendments would promote “more healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity.”

What do you think about the petition to change the standard of identity for flavored milk?

For more information, check out the FDA website. The FDA is taking public comment on the labeling issue until May 21 (Directions for submitting comments are located at the bottom of the web page).

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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