The Environmental Working Group this week (May 21, 2013) submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urging it to deny an industry petition to change the official definition of milk and 17 other dairy products. Granting the petition would allow the industry to add controversial artificial sweeteners to dairy products such as flavored milk and yogurt without using a “reduced calorie” or similar label on the front of the package. Such labels alert consumers that the product contains an ingredient they would not otherwise expect to find. The petition was submitted by the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation.
Here are the highlights of EWG’s comments:
- Right to know. Consumers deserve more information about their food — not less. The requested labeling changes would force consumers to carefully inspect the fine print on the back of every dairy product they purchase to know for sure whether artificial sweeteners were added.
- Insufficient disclosure. The petition conveys the misleading impression that the only difference between nutritive sweeteners, such as sugar and honey, and artificial sweeteners is caloric content. In fact, there are serious differences that strongly support the need for different labeling requirements
- Lack of scientific consensus. Although the FDA has approved the use of certain artificial sweeteners in foods and beverages, they remain controversial and insufficiently studied. The effects of these sweeteners on diet and weight have been debated for decades, and there is no clear evidence that consumption of artificially sweetened products results in weight loss.
EWG recognizes that dairy products can be part of a balanced, healthy diet. However, there are better ways to market milk to consumers and encourage children to choose lower-calorie foods and beverages than by selling artificially sweetened dairy products without clear labels. EWG urges the FDA to affirm consumers’ right to know what is in their food by denying the petition.
The full petition is available here.