Milk Labels To Feature More Accurate Descriptive Names

January 04, 1998

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- If you enjoy milk but prefer to buy low-fat products, new labels on milk containers will help you to make the right choice, says a nutrition expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

J. Lynne Brown, associate professor of food science, explains that effective Jan. 1, 1998, the Food and Drug Administration will no longer allow 2 percent milk to be called "low-fat." Instead, this milk category will be called "reduced-fat" milk.

"The dairy industry originally asked for an exemption from the terms of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, because the industry felt the public had strongly identified with 2 percent as a healthy product," Brown says. "The new labeling will help the dairy industry in the long run because people are interested in low-fat products, and consumers like consistency in labeling."

The FDA definition of "low fat" is 3 or fewer grams of fat per serving. A serving of milk is one 8-ounce glass. Brown says whole milk has 8 grams of fat per serving. Milk labeled 2 percent contains 5 grams of fat per serving, which means the dairy industry must label 2 percent milk as "reduced fat."

"Milk labeled 1 percent has 2.5 grams of fat per serving, so it can be called a low-fat product," Brown explains. "Skim milk has .5 or less grams of fat per serving, which fits the FDA definition of a fat-free product. It still will be called skim milk."

Brown points out that dairies can still list fat content on the front of the milk carton as 1 percent or 2 percent, but the 2 percent products cannot be advertised or labeled as low-fat.

"The new labels make the fat content claims of dairy products comparable to other foods," Brown says. "The dairy industry will really have more flexibility in differentiating its low fat and fat-free products, and consumers can make a more informed choice at the supermarket."

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EDITORS: For more information, contact J. Lynne Brown at 814-863-3973 or John Wall John_Wall@agcs.cas.psu.edu 814-863-2719 814-865-1068 fax

Last Updated March 19, 2009