Milk industry heavyweights have asked the federal government for permission to include an artificial sweetener in milk products for schools, without alerting parents and children.

A health and nutrition organization is criticizing the plan.

“The integrity of our food supply is poised for another blow,” said Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

She said that 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,” she said.

The proposal is aimed “principally at replacing sugar in flavored milks served to school children,” her organization explained.

But the  FDA also asks for the right to put hidden artificial sweeteners in a host of dairy products, including nonfat dried milk (always added to reduced-fat milks), yogurt, cream, half-and-half, sour cream, eggnog and whipping cream.

The request comes from the International Dairy Foods Association and the national Milk Producers Federal, which have pending a petition before the Food and Drug Administration to be “amend the standard of identity for milk and 17 other dairy products to provide for the use of any safe and suitable sweetener as an optional ingredient.”

According to a promotional website for the artificial sweetener aspartame, it already is found in “more than 6,000 products and is consumed by over 200 million people around the world.”

But an activist doctor, Joseph Mercola, who runs his own health website, contends such a move “could endanger your health for decades to come, and disproportionally harm underprivileged children who rely on school lunches for the bulk of their nutrition.”

The doctor said if the change is approved by the Obama administration, “that would mean anytime you see the world ‘milk’ on the label, it could include aspartame, sucralose or any other dangerous artificial sweetener, but you could never be quite sure, since there will be no mention of it – not by listing the artificial sweetener used, nor with a no- or low-calorie type label, which is a tip-off that the product might contain a non-nutritive sweetener.”

Mercola’s online analysis blasted the idea.

“The IDFA and NMPF claim the proposed amendments would ‘promote more healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity by providing for lower-calorie flavored milk products’ since many children are more inclined to drink flavored milk products than unflavored milk,” he wrote.

“According to the Federal Register: ‘The proposed amendments would assist in meeting several initiatives aimed at improving the nutrition and health profile of food served in the nation’s schools. Those initiatives include state-level programs designed to limit the quantity of sugar served to children during the school day.’

“As if that’s not nonsensical enough, the IDFA and NMPF argue that the proposed amendments would ‘promote honesty and fair dealing in the marketplace.’ How could altering the definition of ‘milk’ to include unidentified artificial sweeteners possibly promote honesty or fair dealing in the marketplace, you might ask?”

He said the explanation is that the advocates of artificial sweeteners claim consumers find it easier to evaluate the nutritional value of milk with non-nutritive sweeteners if the labels do not include such information.

“In order to understand this twisted logic, you need to know that the FDA already allows the dairy industry to use the unmodified ‘milk’ label for products that contain added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.”

The logic then, is that allowing other sweeteners without having them cited in any nutrient description, but only listed as an ingredient, would “promote honesty.”

The doctor explained the goal appears to be “fooling your kids into drinking otherwise unpopular fat free or low fat milk and allowing the national school breakfast and lunch programs to ‘look good’ by successfully reducing overall calories of the meals while simultaneously helping the dairy industry protect profits.”

The Price Foundation said consumers already are crying foul and are submitting comments to the FDA about the proposal.

The foundation said thousands of adverse reactions to aspartame have been reported to the FDA, mostly concerned with abnormal brain function, brain tumors, epilepsy and Parkinson’s.

“Children’s brains are four times more susceptible to damage from excitotoxins like aspartame than those of adults and react with ADD ADHD type symptoms, impaired learning, depression and nausea,” the foundation report said. “People who are sensitive to aspartame can have life-threatening reactions to it.”

It reported: “In May, 2010, The International Journal of Genomics published a study In Vivo Cytogenetic Studies on Aspartame where scientists observed significant chromosomal aberrations in the bone marrow cells of mice following exposure to aspartame. Because of the genotoxicity they found, scientists advised caution when using aspartame in food and beverages as a sweetener.”

The Price Foundation has posted links on how to comment on the issue.

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