This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.
FLAVORED MILK IS A POPULAR DRINK FOR CHILDREN, BUT SOME PARENTS ARE NOT HAPPY WITH PROPOSED CHANGES IN ITS INGREDIENTS
Misinformation about the labeling of flavored milk has been in the news lately, and that’s not good. There are always people ready to attack the food industry no matter what they do, but if they suspect a drink for children is being altered in some way – especially the ingredients in milk – it really gets them up in arms.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had to count to ten and wait for the facts to seep in before we reacted to headline news?
Who Decides What’s in Our Food?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a “standard of identity” for 300 “common and usual” foods and beverages. These are legal definitions that specify the minimum and maximum ingredient requirements for any product sold under a specific name, such as “strawberry jam,” the optional ingredients that may be used in that food and those that are prohibited, as well as processing specifications.
These standards were developed to protect consumers from the problem of inconsistent quality when different food items are sold under the same name. With standards of identity in place, all manufacturers must include a certain amount of strawberries, by weight, in their strawberry jam or call it something else.
The standards also provide a means of penalizing companies that try to sell adulterated products, and they protect us from the economic fraud that can occur when strawberry jam is made with more strawberry gelatin than strawberries.
These standards have even been used to help improve the nutritional value of foods.
So far so good.
What Are the Ingredient’s in Milk?
The standard of identity for “milk” defines the percent solids it must contain (8 ¼ ) and fat (not less than 3 ¼ for whole milk), the amount of vitamins A and D that can be added, and that it must be pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized.
The optional ingredients include natural and artificial flavoring, color additives, emulsifiers, stabilizers and nutritive sweeteners. The list of allowed nutritive sweeteners is long, but includes beet or cane sugar, brown sugar, invert sugar (in paste or sirup form), molasses (other than blackstrap), high fructose corn sirup, fructose, fructose sirup, maltose, dried malt extract, honey and maple sugar.
When one of those optional sweeteners is used in “flavored milk,” it does not have to be named on the front label. Consumers must check the ingredient list to see which one was used. That is, if they realize flavored milk is sweetened.
The uproar over the possible use of sugar substitutes in flavored milk suggests many consumers don’t realize this popular drink for children already contains added sugar.
The Proposed Change in Labeling Flavored Milk
Sugar substitutes are not on the list of allowed optional ingredients in the standard of identity for milk, so their use would require a front of package declaration. The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation want to change that. They proposed an amendment to the standard of identity for milk that would allow the use low calorie sugar substitutes in place of the added sugars in flavored milk without having to identify the milk as “reduced calorie” or “lower sugar.”
The dairy industry believes this would make a lower calorie option available to children without having the stigma of a “diet” claim on the front of the container, which seems to matter to kids on the lunch line. They also claim it will help deal with the problem of overweight and obesity in kids, which now affects 30 percent of them.
All sweeteners would still be named on the ingredient list, and all would be FDA approved sweeteners that are safe for children and adults alike.
Facts About Flavored Milk Now Served in Schools
- Contains the same 9 essential nutrients as white milk
- Provides only 3% of the added sugars in the diets of children
- Contains an average of 39 more calories than white milk
- Contributes to better quality diets in school-aged children without increasing the total fat or added sugar in their diets
- Increases milk consumption at school
Do you think the problem of childhood obesity can be helped by offering more lower calorie products on school menus?