There’s no use crying over a spilt glass of milk, especially if it has aspartame in it like two very powerful dairy associations are asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow without labeling. The FDA has acknowledged a 2009 petition from the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) that asks to drop their requirement for dairy products, including milk, to label products as “artificially sweetened” or “reduced calorie” when they contain sweeteners, including aspartame.
The dairy organizations are hoping to sell chocolate and strawberry milk products without the label since those claims on the front of the package “are not attractive to children.” They want milk that is flavored with no-calorie sweeteners to continue to be “labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can more easily identify its overall nutritional value.” They are arguing that by having these milks sweetened with aspartame, which is a no calorie sweetener, also sold under the name of Equal, that they can help reduce childhood obesity, as well make milk more attractive to kids so they get the nutritional benefits from drinking it.
However, aspartame is far from healthy and is surely not something children need to be drinking. There is constant ongoing debate as to the health and safety of aspartame, making it one of the most studied processed foods out there. While some studies have shown links to cancer, as well as neurological symptoms, the FDA, as well as organizations such as the National Cancer Institute, has denied such claims.
Yet, anyone who follows a real foods diet knows that nothing that came out of a laboratory is something their body should be ingesting on the regular. Sweetener should come from the Earth, such as honey and maple syrup, as nature intended. Processed food has been the leading cause in the growth of chronic illness and obesity in this country.
In my opinion, the milk industry only feels the need to sweeten its milk because children won’t drink it if they don’t. Why you ask?
Pennsylvania State University conducted a study and found that children were averaging 11.33 teaspoons of sugar per day, and some even had over 26 teaspoons a day! Compared to the 3 teaspoons that is recommended, kids are living in a very sweet world.
Of course kids are going to prefer sweeter milk, versus the normal stuff; it is what their taste buds have been taught to prefer by all the processed foods with added sugar they’ve been allowed to eat. Not to mention all the sugary beverages they have access to such as sodas, juice, and sports drinks, children today think hydration should be sweet. Plain ole milk just doesn’t taste good anymore to the sugar sensitive tongue, and the dairy industry wants a piece of the beverage pie.
Even though the added aspartame to milk would not be added calories, it would continue to skew kids taste buds to the sweeter stuff, which we know is not good for them in the long run (I’m talking to you high fructose corn syrup). We all know sugar consumption is a viscous, addicting cycle; one that the food industry is using to its advantage and to disaster of our health.
So even if I didn’t think aspartame was inherently bad since it’s a processed food, I would still be against the added sweetener to milk on principal. Let food be food. Enjoy milk for what it is and let its true flavors shine though. We must break our addiction with the sweet stuff. It is killing us.
I’d like to encourage you to let the FDA know what you think. They are taking public comments on the issue before they make a decision. It’s important they know the dairy industry shouldn’t be allowed to have an influence on our children’s taste buds, priming them for a life of over consumption of sugar and chronic disease. You can tell them here.