Track the companies that matter to you. It's FREE! Click one of these fan favorites to get started: Apple; Google; Ford.



A Not-So-Sweet Deal for Milk

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

Go to your local grocery store, and just about any item you pick up will tell you the ingredients in the can, box, or bag. But if the Big Milk lobby gets its way, one thing you won't realize until you read the fine print is that your jug of chocolate milk is loaded with artificial sweeteners.

Several years ago, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation petitioned the FDA to drop the requirement that labels identify when artificial sweeteners like aspartame have been added to milk. Mind you, they're not trying to put aspartame or sucralose in the milk -- it's already there -- they just don't want you to know about it. Now the agency is about to make a decision on it.

How now, brown cow?
Specifically, the petition asks the agency to allow the use of "any safe and suitable" sweetener for milk and some 17 other milk and cream products such as sweetened condensed milk, whipping cream, yogurt, and eggnog without having it called out. Since the government doesn't recognize any health problems caused by artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, the milk producers want to be able to call milk sweetened with them "milk."

Currently the FDA only allows milk products that contain "nutritive sweeteners" (that is, those with calories, which the agency says are safe) to be identified as such. If the milk lobby is successful with its petition, you won't readily know the fake stuff is in the container. 

Udderly ridiculous
Aspartame is a controversial ingredient, and even though regulators have signed off on its safety (or perhaps because of it), there's a large and growing resistance to its presence in the food chain.

Not even Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) , which owned the sweetener for a time and is willing to genetically alter our feed crops, wanted anything to do with it after a while. It sold the NutraSweet company to J.W. Childs in 2000, and today the aspartame maker remains a privately held company. Aspartame is now found in more than 5,000 consumer food and beverages worldwide. Sucralose is known more commonly by its brand name Splenda.

Sour milk
Milk consumption is falling, according the USDA, which shows per-capita consumption down 23% since 1975. Whole milk sales are down 58% in that time period even as 2% and 1% milk have risen.

Dairy producers have turned to flavoring milk to make it more palatable, and flavored milk products have grown more than fivefold over the last 35 years. But since the whole purpose of drinking milk is its health benefits, having the words "artificially sweetened" on the label isn't helping, and that's why producers want to FDA to mask or at least make it more difficult to find out what's in the jug.

The milk producers are pushing the health aspects of their argument in that kids drinking more milk would be healthier. As the largest dairy producer, Dean Foods (NYSE: DF  ) , notes, while about half the sugar in flavored milk is from naturally occurring lactose, all the sugar in soda is added sugar. Of course soda is facing falling consumption levels, too, these days.

WhiteWave Foods (NYSE: WWAV  ) , the Dean Foods spinoff whose organic products go out of their way to certify that they avoid being tainted with GMO ingredients, still sells Land o' Lakes products that contain sucralose.

Got milk?
With the price of milk tightly regulated, industry margins are thinner than skim milk. so it's understandable why they might want to petition the FDA to hide the artificial ingredients, yet they may be left crying over spilled milk from the backlash if their products are seen as something that can't be trusted.

For more wholesome fare, check this out. It's hard to believe that a grocery store could book investors more than 30 times their initial investment, but that's just what Whole Foods has done for those who saw the organic trend coming some 20 years ago. However, it may not be too late to participate in the long-term growth of this organic-foods powerhouse. In this premium report on the company, we walk through the key must-know items for every Whole Foods investor, including the main opportunities and threats facing the company. So make sure to claim your copy today by clicking here.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 30, 2013, at 10:46 PM, herky46q wrote:

    It would be outrageous if they secretly added aspartame to skim milk. Can't we just leave natural things alone?

  • Report this Comment On May 01, 2013, at 7:28 PM, percent1 wrote:

    Why the hate for business from Motley Fool. This is usually the business haters who write stuff like this. Chocolate milk sweetened with sugar is making the country's kids FAT. When schools took chocolate milk out, the kids didn't drink white milk. Milk is good for kids, kids like sweet things, ergo make healthier sweet milk. To do that you need zero-calorie high intensity sweeteners.

    This same legislation that you seem to oppose also allows for NATURAL sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit to be used in milk by the way. Maybe do some fact checking next time.

  • Report this Comment On May 02, 2013, at 7:37 AM, TMFCop wrote:


    Hate? I love business. There are few more staunchly pro-business people around. But that doesn't mean I think they should be able to act with impunity.

    While I have doubts about the efficacy of aspartame and sucralose, I still drink soda and chocolate milk laced with them. So I'm not saying it should be banned, just that businesses shouldn't be able to hide what they're putting into our foods. That way it lets an informed consumer makes choices that are right for them.

    As for the regulation change under consideration by the FDA, I have no problem with additives in general, I just want to know there *are* additives in whatever I'm drinking. Disclosure is what I'm seeking, not a ban.


Add your comment.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2398875, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/27/2016 11:54:31 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 2 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,228.30 133.47 0.74%
S&P 500 2,159.93 13.83 0.64%
NASD 5,305.71 48.22 0.92%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

9/27/2016 4:01 PM
DF $16.39 Down -0.14 -0.85%
Dean Foods CAPS Rating: **
MON $102.25 Up +0.12 +0.12%
Monsanto CAPS Rating: ***
WFM $28.46 Down -0.19 -0.66%
Whole Foods Market CAPS Rating: ****
WWAV $54.85 Up +0.07 +0.13%
WhiteWave Foods CAPS Rating: *****