The Food and Drug Administration this week followed up on an earlier request for comments on proposed changes to dairy product labeling, clarifying the intent of the changes.
The request for comments was issued in February after the National Milk Producers Federation and International Dairy Foods Association filed a petition to amend the ingredients that could be included in milk without renaming the product.
Specifically, the FDA notes in its statement, the proposal asks FDA to amend the standard of identity for flavored milk and 17 other dairy products so that non-nutritive sweeteners are among the standard ingredients, which can be included without an extra description on the label.
"If we granted the petition, a carton of chocolate milk made with non-nutritive sweeteners would simply say 'chocolate milk,' the same as a carton made with nutritive sweeteners, such as sugar," notes Felicia Billingslea, director of FDA's Food Labeling and Standards staff. "You would need to read the ingredient list, which is typically on the back or the side of the product, in order to tell the difference between the two."
But, as the FDA pointed out in its latest consumer update, people commenting in response to the Federal Register notice appear to be under the impression that the non-nutritive sweeteners will not be listed anywhere on the product—a prospect that had many food activists concerned.
According to Mary Poos, Ph.D., deputy director of FDA's Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements, FDA has received more than 30,000 comments on the issue to date.
"Based on these comments, we're seeing a fair amount of confusion about what the labeling change would actually mean," Poos said.
FDA said it wants hear from consumers on this issue, but also wants to ensure that they understand the exact nature of the proposed change. To aid consumers' understanding of the proposal, FDA developed a graphic depicting the how the changes would impact a milk label, if implemented. (See below)
Comments on the proposal remain open until May 21, 2013, and can be submitted at www.regulations.gov. Search by docket no. FDA-2009-P-0147.