A food dye used in Dannon yogurt contains a type of protein that might make some consumers squeal. The bright red dye used in berry flavors of Dannon yogurt comes from crushed-up bugs, according to a food watchdog group.
In a recent statement urging the yogurt manufacturer to stop using the dye, the Center for Science in the Public Interest says the strawberry, cherry, boysenberry and raspberry flavors of Dannon's "Fruit on the Bottom" line use an additive that contains pulverized bodies of cochineal insects, which gives the yogurt its red color.
Carmine, the food dye in question, is an all-natural additive made from cochineal insects, an arthropod native to Mexico and South America. The group claims using the additive is deceptive, as consumers believe the color of their yogurt is caused by the reddish berries.
"I have nothing against people who eat insects, but when I buy strawberry yogurt, I'm expecting yogurt and strawberries, not red dye made from bugs," Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI executive director, said in a statement.
The red color comes from carminic acid. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, it takes 40,000 bugs to produce one pound of cochineal extract. Cochineals are harvested on plantations in Peru and the Canary Islands where they are sun-dried, crushed and dunked in an acidic alcohol solution to produce carminic acid, LiveScience reports.
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While the dye is safe to consume for most people, Jacobson points out that some people are allergic to it. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration requires the dye to be identified on the ingredient list as opposed to being called a “natural color.”
“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?" Jacobson adds.
LiveScience points out that other red food dyes know as Red No. 2 and Red No. 40 come from either coal or petroleum byproducts and carry a bigger health risk than carmine.
Dannon, headquartered in White Plains, N.Y., stands by its ingredients, saying customers can choose whether to buy its products or not.
"Any of our products that contain carmine clearly list it as an ingredient," Dannon's senior director of public relations, Michael J. Neuwirth, told the Huffington Post. "Anyone who wishes to avoid it can."