Milk by any other name, would it taste as sweet? The dairy industry is hoping you’ll say no: that any milk, whether artificially sweetened or not, should still be called milk.
In an effort to combat the decreasing levels of milk consumption in schools, the dairy industry wants to offer a new low calorie milk option to compete with other low-cal beverages offered in schools like diet sports drinks and water. Current FDA regulations state that milks made with artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, must be clearly labeled as such on the front of the carton. The dairy council’s fear, however, is that labels like “reduced sugar” or “low calorie” will make kids scrunch their noses and turn their heads in disinterest.
To get around this obstacle, the dairy industry has petitioned the FDA to change the regulations, allowing the milk companies to still call the product milk and leave content claims such as these off the front label. The ingredients will still be listed, but what kid looks for the fine print?
My question, however, is why would kids sneer at low-calorie milk but are currently reaching for the low-cal juices and sports drinks? More importantly, why are we fighting so hard to get kids to drink milk? It’s no secret that we’re in the midst of a childhood obesity crisis. Decreasing kids’ calorie consumption and getting them to move more is the only answer. If kids are reaching for healthy beverage options such as water, why should we fight it? Not to mention the potential risks and side effects of artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Non-nutritive sweeteners (those without calories) still signal to the brain that it’s tasting something sweet and fuels the desire for more sugar, fake or not. What’s more, diet drinks have been shown to increase the risk of type II diabetes, weight gain, and depression.
The concept of lowering the sugar in milk for kids still doesn’t address a bigger issue: how much milk should kids really be drinking? There is some evidence to show that milk consumption may be tied to early puberty, cancer risk, and unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms.
Instead of covertly attempting to hide what’s really in our food, shouldn’t we be focusing our efforts on teaching kids how to eat healthy and get them excited about physical activity?
What do you think about the dairy industry’s petition to allow artificially flavored milks go unlabeled?