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Why make the dairy issue harder than it already is with the flavor additives?
 
We need to talk.

The International Dairy Foods Assoc. (IDFA) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow milk processors to use non-nutritive sweeteners in milk and still be able to call the product “milk.”

Just so we don’t get any of the facts mixed up, the following is the statement that appeared on the NMPF website at www.nmpf.org about the petition: As required by the Food and Drug Administration’s food labeling regulations, all food products that include non-nutritive sweeteners as an ingredient must be clearly labeled and include the name of the sweetener on the package’s ingredient statement.

 The FDA petition would not change any existing requirements that aspartame, sucralose or any other non-nutritive sweetener be included in the list of ingredients if it is present.

The purpose of the petition is to allow milk processors to use safe and suitable sweeteners to reduce the overall carbohydrate content in milk, and still label it “milk.”

This has lit up the food bloggers in the social media world, and let me tell you, factual information is not necessarily their strong suit. I’ve spent some time looking over what all the natural “foodies” have been saying, and they are livid. Why?

I’m glad you asked … because dairy processors want to add non-nutritive sweeteners to flavored milk. An example of a non-nutritive sweetener would be aspartame; and of course, the “A” word ignites anyone who believes it may be considered a carcinogenic.
But secondly, they are upset because they believe (or assume) dairy processors want to keep the non-nutritive ingredients from appearing on the label. That is not true, as evidenced by the statement issued by the NMPF.

Now that we have laid out the facts and some of the reaction to this idea of adding artificial sweeteners to milk, I have to back up the horse and ask: Why would we even think about adding non-nutritive sweeteners to one of natures’ most perfect foods in the first place?

We could argue the pros and cons of aspartame or other artificial sweeteners. In my research of aspartame, I found just as many votes for it as I did against it. In my opinion, it’s personal choice on whether you want to consume products with artificial sweeteners.
Instead, let’s go a little deeper and look at why the NMPF wants to add artificial sweeteners to milk. They claim it’s because they want to help in decreasing childhood obesity. Of course, this flies in the face of all the research out there that claims three servings of milk a day helps people lose weight.

Are you confused? So am I. But let’s continue.

In the 1970s and ’80s and ’90s children across this nation consumed chocolate milk in schools, every single day. Nobody cried foul back then, but all of a sudden in the new century, flavored milk is a contributing factor to childhood obesity? Seriously?

How can this be? Is it because children are consuming flavored milk in copious amounts every day? Is it because every time parents stop at a convenience store, the kids jump out and run to the cooler to grab a double-Dutch chocolate milk? Is it because every day at school kids are drinking 4-5 half-pints of chocolate milk at lunch?

If this is the case, then we have got to put an end to this increase in milk consumption by these out-of-control children. I mean, really – three a day is the limit!

Let’s get back in touch with reality and remember, we aren’t having an increase in fluid milk consumption. It’s actually declining. Kids don’t show up at ball games and hit the concession stand to buy milk. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid in the grocery store begging his mom to buy a 24-pack of milk.

Flavored milk is not contributing to childhood obesity, and why would NMPF and IDFA even try to fix something that’s not broken? Why compromise a perfectly good food in the name of helping decrease a disease for which we are not responsible? We might as well add non-nutritive sweeteners to our milk so people don’t get lung cancer.

Yes, it’s that crazy!

We can toss the blame of childhood obesity at a myriad of places, but flavored milk is not one of them. Throw the blame on soda, sports drinks, convenience foods, busy parents, guilt-ridden mothers, video games, non-activity, physical education class limited to one day a week in elementary schools, less recess time and, my favorite – personal responsibility.

Dairy producers face enough challenges in a single day; please, NMPF and IDFA, do not add this one to our plate.

The FDA is looking for comments on this issue until May 21. To comment you may go to www.federalregister.gov and search for the “flavored milk petition.” No matter where you stand on this issue, I urge you to chime in and let your voice be heard.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Those with questions or comments for Melissa Hart may write to her in care of this publication.
3/6/2013