Not a week after we heard the fantastic news that Whole Foods will label all genetically modified foods (GMOs) in its stores by 2018, and we felt our nation moving in the right direction towards label transparency, we received concerning news regarding a new petition that if passed would take us in the wrong direction. Here we go again, come on, you know the dance.  It’s one step forward and two steps back.

In Rich Food Poor Food, we identified the ingredient list as the last bastion of hope for health-conscious consumers. Now it seems that the ingredient list will become even more important where our milk is concerned—especially where our children’s lunch milk is concerned. Now, there has been a lot of misreporting around this newly proposed law so lets break down the recent reports.

The truth about the proposed milk petition

The National Milk Producers Foundation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) submitted a petition to the FDA to allow the use of non-nutritive sweeteners (e.g. aspartame or sucralose) in milk and in 17 other milk and cream products without the use of the phrase “reduced calorie” currently required to be printed on the food’s label.

The manufacturers are petitioning the FDA because they feel that they should not have to put the phrase “reduced calorie” on the milk label as they state that flavored milks that bear such claims are unattractive to children. They feel that that since flavored milks do not have to include any language when they add nutritive sweeteners (e.g. sugar or high fructose corn syrup) they shouldn’t have to when adding non-nutritive sweeteners. For example, chocolate milk, doesn’t have to include phrases such as “higher calorie” or “added sugar” on the label, they are free to add as much sugar or high fructose corn syrup as they want and not inform consumers at all, and now they want those same rights to apply to sugar substitutes as well. In essence, the NMPF and IDFA are fighting for further rights to mislead the public by omitting pertinent information from labels. This should not surprise us, but it should anger us.

You may remember that in Rich Food, Poor Food we explained that the modern food package is really the manufacturer’s billboard, intentionally designed to lull the consumer into purchasing. And this is exactly what this petition to amend the standard of identity for milk is doing. The NMPF and the IDFA are doing everything in their power to make it as hard as possible for consumers to know what is in their food. The FDA has put specific labeling requirements in place to alert consumers to products that contained ingredients that were not “normal” in the industry, but now because we want kids to drink more milk, seemingly at any cost, we want to allow manufactures the right to “fool” the kids into thinking the milk sweetened with sugar substitutes are exactly the same as the ones sweetened with sugar. If children can’t tell the difference, how do they even know what they are choosing? After all won’t they both look the same now?

This petition is taking us in the wrong direction when it comes to labeling our foods. Milk manufactures may not have to currently label their sugar filled flavored milks as “sugar-laden, poor quality, obesity-inducing milk,” even though that’s what most of them really are. Perhaps if they did then maybe they wouldn’t feel so bad about having to print “reduced calorie” on the label of their “artificially sweetened, poor quality, potentially cancer-inducing milk.” Somehow, the right to poison our children with sugar and high fructose corn syrup and not have to print anything on the label indicating their inclusion or health effects was given to the milk manufacturers. However, this does not mean that we want the sugar substitutes to slide in using this same villainous and misleading logic. If we do not stop them now, who knows what others ridiculous petitions will follow. Where will this slippery slope end? At this time when we are finally making headway in the fight to label GMOs in products, why is the FDA giving manufacturers more lenient product labeling laws making it more difficult to determine the healthfulness of a product?

Now, for what is not true and has been misreported by the online media

It has been said that this new labeling law would make it so that consumers would not know that there is aspartame or other artificial sweeteners in the milk. This is false. This petition would not allow ingredients to sneak in without being included in the ingredient list. The above statement was incorrectly spread via blog posts all around the Internet.  This is great news!  Manufacturers will still have to report all the ingredients. While this may be beneficial to those of us who understand the importance of reading the ingredient list, let’s remember who this milk’s target audience is. We don’t imagine a lot of children are standing around reading their milk cartons in the school lunch line, do you? Do you think that most young children even know the difference between sucralose and sucrose or high fructose corn syrup and aspartame?

And why is it so important to know if a sugar substitute like aspartame is hiding inside your milk?  In Rich Food, Poor Food we reported that this Sinister Sugar Substitute (SSS) accounts for more than 75 percent of all adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA and has been well reported to cause neurological symptoms like dizziness, seizures, depression, breathing difficulties, and weight gain. Some studies have even linked it to cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis. Do we really want lunchrooms full of little children out there drinking aspartame-laced milk at lunch?

But that's not all—Aspartame has also been shown to increase insulin and affect leptin signaling! Remember that insulin is our fat storage hormone. This means that while this sweetener may be used to help children lose weight, it may actually cause them to pack on the pounds. Additionally, leptin is the hormone that tells your body you are full. Becoming “deaf” to that message is a diet disaster because why would you ever stop eating if your body never told you, that you are full.  And lastly, aspartame contains methanol, which converts to formaldehyde—that’s right, the same stuff used to embalm a corpse. After all this, the words “reduced calorie” on the label really don’t seem so bad, do they?

So, what can we do about this?

There is currently a second petition to stop the NMPF and IDFA petition to the FDA. According to petition campaign manager, Kaytee Riek, “Hyper-sweet additives like aspartame rewire children’s brains so that they always want sugary foods, turning the kids into tiny consumption machines.” In Rich Food, Poor Food we express how nutritious real milk can be when in its natural forms.  However, the milk industry seems to be trying to add dangerous, artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, to this healthy, nutrient rich beverage, and they don’t want any indicators on the label to alert you or your children to the fact that they are in there.

We ask that you take this information and do two things.  First, we urge you to sign this petition to stop the milk manufacturers from amending the current FDA labeling laws. Next, we want you to continue to be part of the Rich Food Revolution and to urge others to do the same! Use our 3-step divide and conquer technique to decipher your packages.

  1. Look beyond the misleading information on the front of the package.
  2. Remember that Nutrition Facts can’t tell you if a food is Rich or Poor.
  3. ALWAYS read the ingredient list.

As you can see, even at a time when topic of label transparency is at an all time high and Americans are demanding to know what is in their food, manufactures are pressuring the FDA to loosen up on labeling laws arguing for a reduction of transparency. Don’t let this happen, your health and the health of your family is too important.