By Matt Hall — Staff Writer
If you’ve ever enjoyed Dannon’s yogurts, you may have noticed their bright, fun colors. What you may not have known is some of those yogurts get those colors from carmine, a coloring agent made with crushed beetles. If you would have made a different purchase decision if you’d known that information, you’re not alone: the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is also taking issue with Dannon over the process.
Dannon’s Coloring Process
Carmine is a food coloring additive made from the crushed bodies of cochineal beetles. In addition to being gross and cruel, using beetles to make food coloring is also unnecessary. “Given the fact that … [it's] easy to use safer, plant-based colors, why would Dannon use it at all?” said Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI Executive.
According to ingredient information on several of Dannon’s websites, the coloring agent in question — carmine — is used in the following yogurt lines:
“Fruit on the Bottom” yogurt
“Oiko” Greek Yogurt
“Light and Fit” Yogurt
“Light and Fit Greek” Yogurt
Dannon also uses the coloring agent in several of its “Activia” yogurts as well.
The potential problems of Dannon using this coloring process for its yogurt are obvious. Vegetarians, consumers concerned with animal cruelty, and people with allergies and other dietary restrictions are just some groups that should have the right to know how their yogurt is made.
No FDA Support for Concerned Consumers
Don’t expect the FDA to work on the side of the consumer to protect them from carmine since the FDA has classified the coloring substance as a natural ingredient. This means it does not have to be under the same stringent regulations as artificial coloring agents.
The FDA isn’t the only group who has shown disinterest in preventing consumers from coming in contact with this disgusting coloring process. Starbucks is coming under fire again for its decision to begin selling Dannon yogurts at its stores, even though it already had its own carmine scandal a year ago. Last year, Starbucks customers were outraged when they found out its strawberry-flavored smoothies and Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino used cochineal extract. After a customer uproar, the company agreed to stop using cochineal extract and use lycopene instead. (Lycopene is a natural extract made from tomatoes — much safer and more ethical than carmine.) This decision forces the question, “Why not make the same switch in Dannon yogurts?”
How to Make Your Own Natural (Beetle-Free) Yogurt
If you’re sick and tired of having corporations trick their customers into consuming disgusting ingredients, you can make your own. There are lots of recipes to make your own yogurt online, and here’s just one.
First, gather four 8-oz. glass jars and lids. You’ll want to sterilize them by boiling them in a water pot for 10 minutes. This step may sound optional, but as making yogurt is dependent on having a specific culture of bacteria, don’t skip it!
Next, pour 1 quart of milk into a pot or double boiler and begin heating it slowly. Stir constantly.
When the milk reaches between 180 and 185 degrees F, stop heating it.
Remove the milk from heat and allow it to cool to between 105 and 110 degrees F.
Add 1/4 cup plain store-bought yogurt to the milk and stir until it dissolves. (Don’t use yogurt with any flavoring or coloring — especially carmine!)
Pour the milk/yogurt mix into the four jars and close the lids tightly.
Place these jars in a pot or container filled with warm water. These jars need to stay between 105 and 120 degrees F to incubate the bacteria cultures, so use a thermometer to monitor the water temperature. Add hot water if you need to raise the temperature to maintain proper heat levels.
Once the yogurt has gelled, place it in your refrigerator.This usually takes between 4 and 6 hours.
Feel free to add your own coloring, fruit pieces, flavoring and more at this point. Delicious yogurt is relatively easy to make, even at home, and at least this way you know exactly what’s in it.
With yet another example of disheartening corporate deception, Dannon has proven itself undeserving of the public trust. To make sure you don’t accidentally consume beetles in your food (and unknowingly perpetuate this disgusting practice), check the ingredients of your colored food products for carmine.