For many cultures, eating bugs is only natural, but did you know that one of the most trusted yogurt companies, Dannon, has been coloring their yogurts not with fruit, but with crushed cochineal beetles? Sure you didn’t, because the FDA considers insects a natural color additive and exempts it from stringent certifications. The color-additive is called carmine, and it is used in Activia Brand, Oiko’s Greek Yogurt, Danimals and other yogurt products which Dannon makes.
The Center for Science and Public Interest (CSPI) is pretty sure you weren’t aware that Dannon was using carmine to color their foods. They have been targeting companies like Dannon, and Coca-Cola for making exaggerated, false or misleading claims about the food they produce, like Coca-Cola’s inflated claims about Vitamin Water, for example.
For people who are vegetarians or others with food restrictions, this can be especially problematic. Imagine a Buddhist Monk scooping up a seemingly benign spoonful of yogurt, only to find out he has been eating crushed insects. These people are so full of compassion they have been known to scoop drowning mosquitoes from a water bowl.
Even for those who aren’t eating insects for spiritual reasons, there could be numerous allergies associated to Dannon products which contain carmine. The bottom line though, is that consumers have a right to know what is in their food.
Related Read: Researchers Propose Eating Insects Instead of Meat
Dannon’s senior director of public relations, Michael J. Neuwirth doesn’t seem to have a problem with the public not knowing about insect-ingredients in their products, “Any of our products that contain carmine clearly list it as an ingredient,” he said. “Anyone who wishes to avoid it can.” Those with dietary restrictions and allergies are accustomed to reading ingredient lists, he added.
CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson asked why the company didn’t just use fruit or vegetable food colors [like beets], and rightfully scolded Dannon in a press release. “Why risk offending vegetarians and grossing out your other customers?” They also have pictures of fruits on their yogurt labels. This is seen as very misleading when there are no fruits in the yogurt at all.
You can tell Dannon to get insects out of your yogurt here and add your opinion as well.