Major Yogurt Brands Accused of ‘Turning Health Food into Junk’ in New Report


A new report released by organic advocacy group, The Cornucopia Institute, highlights rampant misleading marketing efforts by leading yogurt brands in the industry.

The report points to major yogurt makers including Dannon, Yoplait and Chobani of turning yogurt—a longtime health food—into little more than junk food loaded with artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and emulsifiers.

Entitled, “Culture Wars: How the Food Giants Turned Yogurt, a Health Food, into Junk Food, The Cornucopia Institute’s report accuses agribusiness of capitalizing on “yogurt’s historic, well-deserved healthful reputation while simultaneously adulterating the product, sometimes illegally, to gain competitive advantage and popular appeal,” the group said in a statement.

Among the report’s findings, the group notes many major yogurt brands selling fruit-flavored yogurt varieties that often contain no actual fruit, but include “total sugars that rival those in candy bars,” the group said. Other yogurts that did not contain sugar contained high levels of artificial sweeteners including aspartame (NutraSweet®).

Other controversial ingredients include artificial colors linked to behavioral issues in children and carrageenan, “a bioactive ingredient derived from seaweed, [which] has been linked in published research to serious gastrointestinal inflammation and disease,” the group notes.

It also tested the probiotic counts in many of the yogurt brands using the industry campaign of including Live and Active Cultures, finding that many organic brands not participating in the campaign had higher levels of healthy probiotics.

“What is most egregious about our findings,” Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute said in the statement, “is the marketing employed by many of the largest agribusinesses selling junk food masquerading as health food, mostly aimed at moms, who are hoping to provide their children an alternative, a more nutritious snack. In some cases, they might as well be serving their children soda pop or a candy bar with a glass of milk on the side.”

As a result of its findings, The Cornucopia Institute has filed a formal complaint with the FDA “asking the agency to investigate whether or not certain yogurts on the market, manufactured by such companies as Yoplait, Dannon, and many store brands including Walmart’s Great Value, violate the legal standard of identity for products labeled as yogurt,” the group said. “The Cornucopia Institute requests that the legal definition of ‘yogurt’ be enforced for product labeling, just as it is for products labeled ‘cheese.’ ”

The release of the report coincides with a scorecard and buyer’s guide available for free on The Cornucopia website that rates more than 100 brands of yogurt for health benefits. The group also notes that “many organic yogurts can often be purchased for less, on a price-per-ounce basis, than conventional yogurts.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: Anthony Albright