FDA to consider petition on flavored milk in schools

February 22, 2013

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have filed a petition requesting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amend the standard of identity for milk and 17 other dairy products to provide for the use of any safe and suitable sweetener as an optional ingredient. The FDA has issued a Federal Register notice to request comments, data, and information about the issues presented in the petition. Comments must be submitted by May 21, 2013.

The IDFA and NMPF jointly submitted a citizen petition on March 16, 2009, requesting that the FDA amend the standard of identity in part 131 (21 CFR part 131) for milk (Sec. 131.110). Specifically, the petition requests that FDA allow the use of “any safe and suitable” sweetener in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients used in milk. The petition also requests that the FDA similarly amend the standards of identity for 17 other milk and cream products. The petition asks that the standards of identity for these products be amended to provide for the use of any safe and suitable sweetener in the optional ingredients.

IDFA and NMPF request their proposed amendments to the milk standard of identity to allow optional characterizing flavoring ingredients used in milk (e.g., chocolate flavoring added to milk) to be sweetened with any safe and suitable sweetener—including non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame. IDFA and NMPF believe that the proposed amendments would promote more healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity by providing for lower-calorie flavored milk products. They state that lower-calorie flavored milk would particularly benefit school children who, according to IDFA and NMPF, are more inclined to drink flavored milk than unflavored milk at school. As further support for the petition, IDFA and NMPF state that the proposed amendments would assist in meeting several initiatives aimed at improving the nutrition and health profile of food served in the nation’s schools. Those initiatives include state-level programs designed to limit the quantity of sugar served to children during the school day.

As it stands now, processors must use special labeling, such as “reduced-calorie chocolate milk,” for milk made with non-nutritive sweeteners. IDFA and NMPF argue that nutrient content claims such as “reduced calorie” are not attractive to children, and maintain that consumers can more easily identify the overall nutritional value of milk products that are flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners if the labels do not include such claims. The petitioners believe this phrase doesn’t appeal to children and has contributed to the overall decline in milk consumption in schools. Further, the petitioners assert that consumers do not recognize milk—including flavored milk—as necessarily containing sugar. Accordingly, the petitioners state that milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can “more easily identify its overall nutritional value.”

Federal Register notice

IDFA statement