Dannon Urged To Stop Using Crushed Insects In Its Yogurt

Image via Flick/ daniel julià lundgren

Yogurt company Dannon is under fire as of late for one ingredient its consumers may not be aware of: carmine, an additive that produces a pigment of bright-red and is made from crushed cochineal beetles. The Center for Science in the Public Interest believes that the ingredient could cause severe problems for those with allergies, and vegetarians who just don’t want crushed insects in their food.

Carmine is used in four flavors of its Fruit on The Bottom line: strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and boysenberry and in strawberry-flavored Oikos Greek yogurt.

Michael Jacobson, co-founder of the company, said in a press release, “I have nothing against people who eat insects, but when I buy strawberry yogurt, I’m expecting yogurt and strawberries, and not red dye made from bugs. Given the fact that it causes allergic reactions in some people, and that it’s easy to use safer, plant-based colors, why would Dannon use it at all? Why risk offending vegetarians and grossing out your other customers?”

Dannon’s senior director of public relations, Michael J. Neuwirth, defended the company’s use of the insect-juice during an interview with the Huffington Post. “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.

Jacobson started a petition on TakePart.com to urge Dannon to rethink the way they’re producing their red-hued food items.

We want Dannon to put berries over bugs,” Jacobson wrote. “The company already uses some of these, such as elderberry juice concentrate, purple carrot juice, and turmeric in some of the same yogurts. But heck, the red or pink color in Fruit on the Bottom really should come from the fruit pictured on the label!”

Yogurt company Yoplait also uses carmine. In the “FAQ” section of the website, a question is posed, “Why do you use carmine? Do you really have to put dead beetles in my yogurt.” The company’s response reads: “We made the commitment to use only natural colors and flavors  in our Original-style Yoplait, and Carmine is both a safe and natural red coloring that can be found in many everyday items. Though the majority of our products actually do not contain Carmine, we can assure you that the flavors that do contain it will have it listed on the cup.”

Starbucks also came under fire for using carmine in its strawberry-flavored smoothies, and quickly took action on the issue and replaced it with a natural, tomato-based extract.