Dannon uses carmine, “a dye extracted from the dried, pulverized bodies of cochineal insects,” for color some of its yogurts, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The nonprofit is urging the company to switch to using berries.
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,” said the center’s executive director Michael Jacobson in a statement. “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?”
A Dannon representative responded to the center’s urging, saying that it’s clear carmine is an ingredient in some of the yogurts.
“Any of our products that contain carmine clearly list it as an ingredient,” Michael Neuwirth, Dannon’s senior director of public relations, told the Huffington Post. “Anyone who wishes to avoid it can.”
People with dietary restrictions and allergies are used to reading ingredient lists, he said.
A petition asking Franck Riboud, CEO of Dannon’s parent company Groupe Danone, to switch from the bug-based dye to berries has been started online. 3,190 people have signed the petition as of July 26.
The petition reads:
“To: Franck Riboud, CEO, Groupe Danone
It has come to my attention that in 13 of your fruit-flavored yogurts, you use carmine to give those products additional red color.
As you know, carmine is the coloring extracted from the pulverized dried bodies of the cochineal insect. While safe for most people, it causes allergic reactions in some consumers, ranging from hives to anaphylactic shock. When I buy Fruit on the Bottom, Light and Fit Greek, Oikos, or Activia yogurt I expect that the red color comes from the fruits described on the label—and not an allergenic extract made from bugs.
If you think that your yogurts are insufficiently pink or red, please consider using additional fruit, and not carmine or synthetic dyes, to color them. If Dannon insists on continuing to use carmine, at the very least it should indicate that the uncommon ingredient is derived from an insect.
[Your name here]”
The center cites the Food and Agriculture Organization when saying it takes somewhere around 40,000 cochineal insects to produce one pound of cochnineal extract, which is found in candies, ice creams, and some drinks as well.