What is Milk?

The Lempert Report
June 28, 2013

Sugar, or no sugar? The battle over defining milk is on!

Sugar, or no sugar? The battle over defining milk is on! The National Milk Producers Federation Academy filed a petition with the FDA to amend the standard of identity for milk and 17 other dairy products. The suggested amendment would allow manufacturers to label milk as “Milk” even if it contains sweeteners as an optional ingredient. So, chocolate milk, for example, would be counted as milk. Good idea? Well supporters of the change, believe it would help increase milk consumption. Much of the milk in most flavored milks is fat free and the product itself only has a small amount of sugar, so the National Milk Producers Federations says that by allowing sweeteners to be used in these products could help improve the diets of children and reduce obesity. On the other side of the debate is The Academy of Nutrition and Diebetics who oppose the amendment saying it’s an unnecessary labeling change. Their argument is not based on sugar however. Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Deborah Beauvais, explains that the Academy is concerned the proposed amendments will be confusing and lead consumers to begin questioning whether ‘milk’ is still the pure, wholesome, and nutritious staple we have come to expect. This isn’t the first time such a labeling distinction has been questioned. For example, in 1994, the FDA changed the definition of ice cream to include “any safe and suitable sweetener.” Sweetener or no sweetener, ice cream is “ice cream.” The FDA did require that all sweeteners other than nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners be declared as part of the name of the food for the first three years after the ruling. After that ice cream makers were only required to list the use of sweeteners in the ingredient statement. The difference between the milk and ice cream scenario is that people generally accept that ice cream is a mixture of milk or cream and some form or sugar or sweetener. When it comes to people’s understanding of milk however, I suspect consumers would not make this assumption. People’s understanding of milk is that it is just that..milk with nothing added.