Skimming the Milk Label: Fat-Reduced Milk Products Join the Food Labeling Fold

By Kurtzweil, Paula | FDA Consumer, January-February 1998 | Go to article overview

Skimming the Milk Label: Fat-Reduced Milk Products Join the Food Labeling Fold


Kurtzweil, Paula, FDA Consumer


The goal of the labeling

changes is to help

consumers select

milk products

that can help them

lower their fat and

saturated fat intakes

to recommended

levels.

Milk, that all-American food, is taking

on some all-American names--like "fat

free," "reduced fat" and "light."

Starting Jan. 1, 1998, the labeling of

fat-reduced milk products will have to

follow the same requirements the Food

and Drug Administration established

almost five years ago for the labeling of

just about every other food reduced in

fat. From now on:

* 2 percent milk will become known, for

example, as "reduced fat" or "less fat"

instead of "low fat"

* 1 percent milk will remain "low fat" or

become, for example, "little fat"

* skim will retain its name or be called, for

example, fat-free, zero-fat, or no-fat milk.

Also, the regulations that implement

the labeling changes give dairy processors

more leeway to devise new formulations.

As a result, consumers may see a

broader range of milk and other dairy

products, including "light" milk with at

least 50 percent less fat than whole, or

full-fat, milk and other reformulated

milks with reduced fat contents but

greater consumer appeal.

"I expect that there are going to be

many more milk products for consumers

to choose from" says Michelle Smith, a

food technologist in FDA's Office of

Food Labeling. "This is positive for milk

consumption in general, and it's likely

that consumers will be able to find a

lower fat milk product that they like."

(See accompanying article.)

FDA issued a final rule in November

1996 that revoked the standards of

identity--the prescribed recipes that

manufacturers of a particular food must

follow--for many fat-reduced milk and other

dairy products. This allowed the agency to

bring milk labeling in line with existing

labeling requirements for nutrient content

claims, such as "fat free," "low fat" "high

protein," and others.

Lower fat milk products will still need

to be nutritionally equivalent to full-fat

milk and provide at least the same

amounts of the fat-soluble vitamins A

and D as full-fat milk. Vitamins A and D

are lost when milk fat is reduced or

removed.

"[Milk] is just as nutritional as

before," says LeGrande "Shot" Hudson,

dairy plant manager for the Landover,

Md.-based Giant Food Inc. "[The milk

industry] just changed the name[s] a

little."

Joint Effort

FDA's final rule was prompted in part

by a petition filed jointly by the Milk

Industry Foundation and the Center for

Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a

consumer advocacy group, and a separate

petition filed by the American Dairy

Products Institute. The petitions asked

FDA to lift the labeling exemption

provided for in the Nutrition Labeling and

Education Act of 1990 for lower fat

dairy products.

FDA agreed to revoke the standards of

identity for low-fat milk and 11 other

lower fat dairy products, including

low-fat cottage cheese, sweetened condensed

skimmed milk, sour half-and-half,

evaporated skimmed milk, and low-fat

dry milk. These products are now bound

by the "general standard" for nutritionally

modified standardized foods. This

means the nutrients that lower fat milk

products provide, other than fat, must be

at least equal to full-fat milk before

vitamins A and D are added. …

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