November 21, 1996 in Nation/World

Milk Labels Can’t Skim The Truth Any Longer

Washington Post

Got milk?

Know how much fat milk’s got?

New rules published this week by the Food and Drug Administration will help consumers answer the second question, at least.

The new rules outlined in the Federal Register will change the labels on milk cartons. From now on, dairies will not be able to call 2 percent milk “low fat” - because it is not. But they will be able to call skim milk by that most powerful of food marketing buzz-phrases - “fat-free” - because it is.

The changes are an attempt to bring dairy product labels in line with those on other food products, said Elizabeth J. Campbell of the FDA’s Office of Food Labeling.

When the FDA came up with standards for food labels called for in the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, it said “low fat” should apply to foods with three or less grams of fat per serving.

Milk and dairy products were initially exempted from those rules, however, which meant 2 percent milk was called “low fat” even though it has five grams of fat per serving. With the new rule, “the term ‘low fat’ is going to mean ‘low fat,’ ” Campbell said.

Two percent milk now will be called “reduced fat” milk. One percent milk, which has 2.5 grams of fat per serving, will qualify for the “low fat” label. Whole milk has eight grams of fat per serving.

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