Cornucopia says organic plain yoghurt is the best way to go

Cornucopia says organic plain yoghurt is the best way to go

Danone, General Mills and Chobani have been accused of "misleading parents" looking for healthier foods into buying yoghurts "loaded with sugar and containing a myriad of questionably safe artificial sweeteners, colours and emulsifiers".

Organic watchdog The Cornucopia Institute has called into question whether Yoplait owner General Mills and French group Danone can legally call their products "yoghurt". The products, Cornucopia claimed, "violate the legal standard of identity for products labelled as yoghurt".

Through their marketing, all three companies have "capitalised on yogurt’s historic, well-deserved healthful reputation while simultaneously adulterating the product, sometimes illegally, to gain competitive advantage and popular appeal", Cornucopia claimed.

Mark Kastel, co-director of Cornucopia, said the companies are "selling junk food masquerading as health food" and targeting parents hopeful of providing their children a 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," he said.

Cornucopia also alleged some of the ingredients manufacturers use to produce yoghurt, such as milk protein concentrate (MPC) typically imported from countries like India "do not meet yogurt's current legal standard of identity".

The report encourages consumers instead to opt for "plain organic yoghurt".

A General Mills spokesperson hit back at Cornucopia, saying it "routinely recommends" organic over alternatives as it was an organic advocate.

"That has been their focus – and it's clearly the agenda here. We understand that organic is important to some consumers, and General Mills offers organic choices in many of our product categories".

A spokesperson for Danone's US business said consumers decide what is a healthy diet and pointed to the range of yoghurts the company offers. "To help people achieve a healthy diet in the way they define it for themselves, we make a huge range of nutrient-dense varieties of yoghurt to fulfil different needs and preferences. This includes plain, unsweetened yoghurt in traditional as well as Greek varieties, and fruit and sugar sweetened yogurt, as well as non-nutritive sweetened yogurt, and others. Danone makes both conventional and organic choices to serve a range of preferences and budgets." 

An industry source who asked to remain anonymous said while the report rooted for organic yoghurt makers, it had failed to consider the impact of sourcing organic ingredients - namely that limited supply of organic raw materials would significantly reduce the amount of product manufacturers can make and increase the price paid by the end consumer.

"It's not for everyone. In the US, 90% of cows are fed with GM seeds, that's not going to change overnight. If everyone was to use organic milk, there simply wouldn't be enough product made".