Dannon Yogurt Uses Crushed Insects (Beetles) to Color Its Yogurt

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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

  • Strawberry

  • Cherry

  • Boysenberry

  • Raspberry

“Oiko” Greek Yogurt

  • Strawberry

“Light and Fit” Yogurt

  • Pomegranate berry

“Light and Fit Greek” Yogurt

  • Blueberry

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.

  1. 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!

  2. Next, pour 1 quart of milk into a pot or double boiler and begin heating it slowly. Stir constantly.

  3. When the milk reaches between 180 and 185 degrees F, stop heating it.

  4. Remove the milk from heat and allow it to cool to between 105 and 110 degrees F.

  5. 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!)

  6. Pour the milk/yogurt mix into the four jars and close the lids tightly.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.


37 Comments on Dannon Yogurt Uses Crushed Insects (Beetles) to Color Its Yogurt

  1. Star Shake

    Vegans don't eat dairy anyway. I think objections to this have more to do with our own cultural "ick" factor than anything else. Unless they find that the beetles are harmful to ingest for some reason, I have no problem with this. All processed food contains ground insects, anyway. It's unavoidable. Besides, many traditional, more holistic cultures include insect dishes in their cuisine. Bugs are typically high in protein and very nutritious. Some are even considered delicacies. Barring any unusually high concentrations of pesticides that may exist in these Dannon beetles, I'd much rather get my edible "pink" from them than from Red No. 5.

  2. Fort Frye In order for a cow to continue to produce milk, it has to lactate, which only happens when the cow produces young, which are not kept. it's not as innocent as you might think.

  3. I personally would rather have cochineal beetles used for coloring than Lycopene since the process for making lycopene turns the tomatoes into basically a synthetic substance after all the processing needed also the amount of fuel energy needed…the beetles are a much better way to go…unless you are a vegan and also don't care that the processing of lycopene is bad for ya……

  4. Insects are mostly protein and, regardless of societal disgust, a perfectly potent food. This doesn't bother me at all. How can you be a page against all the unhealthy, unnatural chemicals and such being added to our foods, then diss a company on a natural alternative for food coloring? You're not making any sense… (I get that some people would rather stay away from products made with animals, but this is a labeling issue, not some evil practice to get us to eat 'gross' foods. Insects could provide most, if not all, of the protein our bodies need should other food sources become scarce. That's important to remember if you're ever in a survival situation.)

  5. Adam MacGregor

    Harvesting grains & vegetables kills many bugs & animals that live on the plants & in the fields

    Does that mean that vegans shouldn't eat them too?

  6. Mona Lan

    I make toghurt a simpler way…first dip a few jars in boiling water…in each jar put a teaspoon of plain yogurt, use one of the last batch, exept for 1st time..add milk, i use soy milk, but it works with other milks..mix, close jars and leave untill hard..then put in frdge….of course it works only if hot enough, you must leave them in a hot space or if cold, near heater.

  7. Linda Tonner

    I was born in the 1940s and cochineal was THE food colouring. It came in a bottle, just like McCormic's chemicals do today and was used to colour cake icing (only white was available then) gelatin if you were making something with red fruit, and when I was 15 and we all had pastel coloured 'blonde' hair, I was doing a friend's hair, but we had no colour rinse and on Sundays no shops were open. She liked baking so she had cochineal. We used that on her hair and it was gorgeous!

  8. Crystal Golden Rose Wake

    Hollie Caporelli if they were vegan they wouldn't be eating yogurt…because it is an animal product (dairy comes from cows mooooooooooo)

  9. Tracy Popovic Galway

    Get some FACTS before freaking people out! This red dye has been around since the 1500's with the Aztecs and has only been a health concern as an allergen for some people. Cochineal may be made from bugs, but other synthetic red dyes such as Red No. 2 and Red No. 40, which carry far greater health risks, are derived from either coal or petroleum byproducts. Compared with these sources, bugs might sound positively appetizing.

  10. Bill Mills III

    Pretty lame-ass reporting if you ask me. People eat bugs everyday in every way. Hell, if you're buying organic, you're most-likely eating some kind of bug shit. You think rinsing your veggies or fruit under running water eradicates but shit and piss? You should have a better sense about your reporting. You sound just like the bullshit 6 o'clock news.

  11. Ellen Leone

    Hollie Caporelli , wouldn't eating yogurt come under attack by vegans because it is a dairy milk by-product?

  12. Denise Mills

    Not to mention they use sucralose in their yogurt to keep the calories low which is poison. I'd be more concerned about that over crushed bug carcasses. Which is still gross but yeah…poison or bugs. I chose bugs. Thank you very much.

  13. Connie Trumpf

    If they're adding it purely for color and the enhancement is minimal, why kill something? Why add color?

  14. Correct, vegans do not eat dairy products anyway. However, not all vegetarians are vegans. This is also a concern for people who follow kosher dietary laws (this category includes people who are meat-eaters,) since insects are not kosher. The is the problem with "natural flavoring," because they could be anything. At the very least, it should be required that all ingredients be listed specifically rather than vaguely, so that people who want to avoid them for any number of reasons – including the possibility of serious allergic reactions – can do so.

  15. Christina Rowden

    Fort Frye they still torture the mothers by taking away their babies (who are often sent to slaughter). That argument isn't working.

  16. Seriously? People are ok with eating crushed bugs? That's just gross! And the fact that they don't let the typical consumer know exactly what that "natural coloring" really is is deceptive.

  17. Ara Almada

    Honestly this food coloring method has existed over centuries ago, and it is widely used. I don't see why it is a problem as in many cultures people eat insects and they contain loads of proteins. Also more and more people are looking into eating insects as an alternative to eating meat, etc… ao I don't really see why this is such a big deal! Plus its NATURAL….

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