The dairy industry is in the process of making an attempt that may or may not surprise you: asking that the “artificially sweetened” label be dropped from dairy products when they contain sweeteners such as aspartame. In this day and age, it seems as though companies and industries are becoming sneakier and sneakier with the ingredients placed in their products. However, if this specific measure is approved by the FDA, serious implications could occur.

The industry filed this petition back in 2009, specifically including the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation as the dairy leaders. The proposal, comments, and rebuttals can be seen here.

Whether you are for or against this labeling change, the most important thing is to understand the potential outcomes if it does occur. And, in turn, a better understanding of aspartame in itself is necessary. Aspartame, created from aspartic acid and phenylalanine, is about 200 times sweeter than natural sugar. It is commonly used in “sugar free” products, allowing the taste to be sweet and satisfying yet “healthy.” However, controversy has always surrounded this substance and its health effects. While the FDA assures aspartame is safe to use, many believe that this ingredient may be linked to serious health consequences such as brain tumors, cancer, headaches, fibromyalgia, and insomnia.

Based on this belief, countless people are adamant about the “artificially sweetened” label remaining on all products, including dairy. Even if you disagree with the potential health effects, choosing to forgo this label on products such as milk and yogurt is rather misleading, isn’t it? According to Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation, “The integrity of our food supply is poised for another blow. By asking the FDA to alter the definition of ‘milk’ to include chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose without full disclosure will only lead to further distrust among consumers. This is a bad idea for consumers and not a smart idea for the industry either.” Consumers already doubt the truth about ingredients included in many products found in the grocery store, and an addition like this will only cause more unrest. Even more serious dangers exist around those who possess a sensitivity to aspartame or phenylalanine, an ingredient in aspartame. For phenylketonurics, if this sweetener is not revealed on the label of dairy products, serious consequences could occur.

The FDA is allowing comments for or against this petition to be posted through May 21, 2013. Many have spoken out about the controversy, most seeming to believe that this labeling change should never be allowed to occur. Here is a sampling of what people are saying:

“Seriously, ASPARTAME in milk products without LABELING? I think not. I protest this and I protest it loudly.”Katherine Marie Reynolds

“Aspartame is far too controversial and potentially toxic to be so casually added to milk and 17 other dairy products. Keep it out of our dairy products!”Jennifer Lynn DiOrio

“There is no sane reason to place artificial sweeteners of any kind in milk. Furthermore, there should be no adulteration of regular milk without the notification to consumers through clearly placed labeling.”Darryl P. Wood

If you want to tell the FDA that you oppose this labeling change, click here with your comment.

- Elizabeth K.

Image courtesy of loop_oh via Flickr.