Dannon Yogurt: Cochineal

Dannon logo surrounded by processed cochineal

For activism to be successful, it must be based on real facts. Otherwise, it risks being harassment, fanaticism — or worse.

Recently, Super Chef received an email from Citizens for Health attacking yogurt producer Dannon for “bug-based food coloring after Dannon yogurt ignored consumer concerns about their use of crushed insects as an intentional ingredient.”

Specifically, the press release said:

Citizens for Health, the consumer advocacy group best known for keeping dietary supplements legal and for protecting the integrity of organic labeling, wants Dannon and other food companies who use the insect-based dye carmine, also known as cochineal extract, in their products to more clearly label them or switch to plant-based alternatives.

Consumer products, like Dannon yogurt, are not generally the topic of Super Chef, but this seemed to be an interesting issue.

Cochineal on cactus

After all, what is cochineal extract?

And aren’t insects “natural” and thus better than artificial colors created in the laboratory?

Super Chef turned to Judith Choate, author of numerous cookbooks, including the upcoming An American Family Cooks (Welcome 2013).

Judith Choate

She said: Cochineal has been used for centuries. Native people of South America have used it, along with any number of natural dyes:

I don’t think this should be an issue. People eat insects the world over, and we are the only people snooty enough not to eat them. Why should we be making a fuss over it? I think most chefs would agree especially now that chefs cook with hay.

Carmine dye is used in many foods like some sausages, marinades, bakery products and toppings, jams, and juice beverages.

Super Chef then asked Dannon if they are labeling their products containing cochineal.

Michael Neuwirth, Senior Director of Public Relations of The Dannon Company, said that Dannon products that contain carmine are clearly labeled.

“Anyone who has an allergy or preference to avoid a particular ingredient is already reading labels carefully — which we encourage — and can easily avoid it if they choose.”

He further added, “It is incorrect as suggested in the press release that any products that Dannon makes for children contains this ingredient – Danimals products are not colored with carmine, and if we were to use that ingredient it would be clearly labeled.”

Citizens for Health have not done their homework. Food activism is important when it encourages companies and governments to make food healthier, especially for children. Yogurt is a good thing for kids to eat –- with or without cochineal.

About Juliette Rossant

Juliette Rossant is an American author, journalist, and poet. Following publication of her book Super Chef (2004), she began an online magazine... (more)