Watchdog buys ads on DC buses to argue against milk industry

So far, SumOfUs.Org’s petition has received more 116,000 signatures, and the group says more than 1,250 small donors paid for the ads, which will appear on 15 public buses in the D.C. metro area.

“America's obesity epidemic is no secret, and food companies' use of aspartame, and other dangerous additives like it, shouldn't be either," said Kaytee Riek, campaign manager for, in a statement. “Being a parent is hard enough without having to worry about pumping your child full of hyper-sweet chemical additives that rewire children's brains to make them tiny consumption machines.”

The agency has not yet proposed rules to change the way artificially sweetened milk products are labeled — it is simply requesting more information from stakeholders and alerting the public about the petitions.

Under the industry’s proposal, sent by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation in 2009, sweeteners such as aspartame would still appear on the ingredients' label, but would not be prominently displayed on the front of the package, as is currently required.

Milk producers say having labels with “low-calorie” turns off young consumers, while the public advocacy group argues parents should have a clear knowledge of what they buy for their children.

“For decades, food companies have poured millions into research into creating foods that trick our brain into over-consuming. As obesity has surged and the country has become more health-conscious, the industry has moved into formerly healthy foods, pumping them up with sugar, salt, and fat until they, too become part of the problem,” the organization said in a release.

The ads will appear on D.C. buses until May 21, when the comment period on the FDA’s request for comment on the milk industry’s petition is set to end. The FDA has received more than 35,000 comments about the issue.