Artificial Sweeteners in Kids’ Milk? Dairy Group Hopes So

Facing a decline in milk consumption in our nation’s schools, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) is hoping to add artificial sweeteners to boost its flavor appeal and increase sales.

The suggestion comes after the IDFA took part in an FDA-filed citizen petition to the U.S. register in 2009 requesting an amendment to the “standard of identity for milk,” reports The IDFA is asking for the permission to have the option to add “any safe and suitable sweetener” to milk, along with 17 additional dairy products including whipping cream, yogurt, sour cream and evaporated milk.

“The petition was and continues to be a direct attempt to keep flavored milk in school cafeterias as federal agencies and consumer groups continue to push for lower-calories milk and foods on school menus to combat increases in childhood obesity,” the IDFA said of its request.

But the biggest issue raising concern over the IDFA’s request is not that its looking at adding artificial sweeteners, which are known to include some health risks, but that it doesn’t want the ingredients to have to be labeled on the products, as the phrase “non-nutritive sweeteners” is unappealing to children and contributing to the decline in milk sales, according to the IDFA. The IDFA is asking that the products simply be labeled as “milk” even if containing aspartame or other artificial sweeteners.

Declining milk and flavored milk product sales may not have as much to do with lack of sweetener, but a shift in focus to healthier beverages. Flavored milks in the Los Angeles Unified School District were recently targeted by British chef Jamie Oliver for containing high levels of added sugar, which may be contributing to the nation’s obesity epidemic and rising cases of diabetes among children. Through demonstrations and petitions, Oliver was instrumental in getting the school system to remove all flavored milks from the nation’s largest school district.

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