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Got Diet Milk? Dairy Industry Asks FDA to Allow Artificially Sweetened Milk

Update Date: Feb 26, 2013 02:05 PM EST

If the dairy industry has its way, "diet milk" could soon be on the shelves. It has asked the Food and Drug Administration for permission to sweeten milk with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners. The move is just the latest bid in the dairy industry's attempt to stave off the decline in purchases of milk.

According to the Huffington Post, the International Dairy Foods Association (IFDA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) filed the petition in 2009. However, just last week, the FDA asked for information about how safe artificial sweeteners are for use, indicating that they are considering green-lighting the move. Currently, the government agency only allows for the use of the word "milk" to describe beverages with calories, which means that they need to be sweetened with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

As The Washington Post reports, sales of yogurt, cheese and other dairy products have risen in recent years. Still, per-capita milk consumption has declined by 30 percent since 1975, and the industry has yet to reach the highs of its World War II days. Part of the decline in recent years has been due to the rise in milk prices. The rise in price has been fueled by the cost of grains to feed cows which, in turn, has been spurred by the prolonged drought in the Great Plains of the United States. Other parts of the decline stem from the fact that children, a solid demographic of milk drinkers, are a smaller share of the American population. In addition, the industry has needed to combat bottled water and energy drink m manufacturers.

Most relevantly to the petition to the FDA, the dairy industry has seen a rise in consumer concerns that milk is high in calories. Though some manufacturers have marketed milk boosted with protein to fitness buffs, these efforts have not been enough.

The dairy industry argues that allowing for milk to be sweetened with aspartame would make the drink healthier and help target childhood obesity, according to the Dairy Reporter. However, some studies have found the opposite: that artificial sweeteners cause people to crave foods with more calories, and help contribute to obesity and type-2 diabetes.

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