Aspartame in my Milk?!

Here I am.

Late to the party, but I know I need to add my voice to the cacophony that’s erupted over aspartame and milk lately.

If you haven’t heard about it please don’t let my title alarm you. Hopefully either way I can fill you in on some of the details of the issue.

I also love milk (I go through at least a gallon a week by myself), and it’s truly important to me to share info and be part of the conversation on dairy foods issues when I can.

First things first. Currently, there is NO aspartame (or other artificial sweeteners) in any product you can buy that is labeled “milk.”

The Food and Drug Administration has oodles of rules about product labeling, and this is one of them. Currently if milk is sweetened or flavored with a non-nutritive (artificial) sweetener it must be labeled something other than milk. For example, it would be called chocolate drink, strawberry shake, chocolate beverage…you get the gist.

Okay. In the past few years enter a host of issues surrounding flavored milk. People are worried about the sugar content in chocolate and flavored milk. Concerns about the calories of school lunches are continually mounting, and of course, the growing obesity problem in children. Finally, there’s the decrease in calcium some kids are getting when flavored milk is removed from schools and kids in these schools drink less milk on average.

Well, now what the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation would like to do is change the rule that says milk flavored with artificial sweetener can’t be called milk. This change would also apply to several other dairy products outlined in their petition.

Read the full petition here.

Basically this would allow lower-calorie flavored milk, made with artificial sweetener, to be available called milk. Now, this milk would still have to be labeled as containing aspartame or sucralose or whatever sweetener it uses. FDA’s requirement that these sweeteners be named and listed as ingredients would not change.

The only change would be the product could now be labeled milk.

National Milk Producer’s Federation outlines some more specific questions here.

Part of my brain is thinking, “for real?” All this fuss about something being labeled milk?

The other part of my brain knows how much pride farmers have in their cows and the quality milk they produce, so I think it’s important there are regulations protecting what can and cannot be labeled milk.

(In this instance I know the product in question is still milk, given by a mammal. In contrast to things like soy milk and almond milk which are not milk, but that’s a whole other issue.)

Now comes the opinion part. Would I choose artificially sweetened milk?

Many of you know I’m a huge chocolate milk drinker. I enjoy a glass after most runs, and usually I mix it to a rich brown myself with Hershey’s syrup. I need those calories. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Honestly, most days I am more worried about filling myself up with enough calories to fuel my running and farm work than I am about cutting calories. I’m also not a big fan of artificial sweeteners.

But…

I also know there are millions of diet soda pops consumed everyday that contain aspartame and have no nutritional value. I’d rather people get some calcium and protein from milk along with artificial sweetener than continue drinking endless quantities of diet coke. Wishful thinking I suppose.

The most important thing to remember is they are NOT suddenly going to start putting aspartame into regular milk. You can also be certain that milk and dairy foods, like all other foods, will continue to list all ingredients on the label.

That’s all I’ve got for now. If I missed anything or you’d like to weigh in just leave a comment. I’d love to hear your take!

About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
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6 Responses to Aspartame in my Milk?!

  1. runblondie26 says:

    I’ve been a label reader for a long time, so whenever I see something labeled “Reduced Calorie” or “Light” I automatically assume it’s artificially sweetened. Not everyone looks that closely though. To reduce confusion, and be fair to consumers, I think it’s a good idea. You know, like how Chick-fil-A can’t calls it’s frozen dessert “Ice Dream”, and McDonalds calls it desserts simply “cone” and “sundae”, since there’s no actual cream in either product.

    Even though I drink diet coke and eat artifically sweetened yogurt all the time, I don’t want my daughter to have it. Hypocrit right here ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hmmm… interesting. My guideline when buying food is that if it’s mostly a natural product (milk, cheese, ice cream, nut butter), I buy the full fat/calorie version because it’s the least ‘processed’ and most likely doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners or additives. I’ve switched to regular sugar in my coffee for that reason too. Extra calories, yes. But also more natural. So I don’t really agree with artificially flavored milk being a solution to growing rates of obesity. Though I do think that if flavored milk gets kids to drink more of it (vs other beverages), then it’s a good thing.

    As far as what milk is labeled, I think that if a consumer is really that concerned about not consuming something with artificial sweeteners, they should be reading ingredients, not just paying attention to what the product is called (since that tends to be in small type anyway).

    • Lisa says:

      When it comes to sour cream, ice cream, butter, etc. I also buy the real stuff!

      And I agree with you; I don’t really think artificial flavors in milk are the answer to larger school lunch & child nutrition issues. They are tough issues, especially when it comes to balancing the realities of school budget and time with nutrition. Of course I want kids to get enough calcium and protein, so it’s an issue I will keep pondering and following.

  3. Happier Heather says:

    I personally don’t care for the taste of regular milk, so most of my dairy consumption comes in the form of chocolate milk, cheese and ice cream (of which I generally buy full fat!). For me, I just want foods to list what’s in them and I wish the government would back out of the chocolate milk controversy because I think kids drinking artificially sweetened milk isn’t the biggest thread when it comes to childhood obesity. I think what parents are feeding at home plays a much bigger part; that and the fact that many kids are substituting what used to be physical activity with TV and video games.

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Heather. I also wish kids would get out & play more instead of being glued to the TV/computer/video games. Looking back I’m grateful to my parents that we never had video games at home.

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