Dannon rejects calls to remove crushed bugs from its yogurts: 'Carmine is a safe natural food color, and we label it clearly on pack'

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

LycoRed's 'cooking with bugs' 1950s-style video parody has gone viral, claims the firm, which says tomato-based natural red food colors work just as well in dairy applications, without the 'ick' factor associated with carmine
LycoRed's 'cooking with bugs' 1950s-style video parody has gone viral, claims the firm, which says tomato-based natural red food colors work just as well in dairy applications, without the 'ick' factor associated with carmine

Related tags: Red

A year after Starbucks announced it would stop using crushed bugs to color its Frappuccinos following a petition on Change.org, Dannon has been urged to remove carmine in its yogurts by The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which is backing a similar petition on TakePart.com.

The CSPI, which claims a small percentage of people can have allergic reactions to carmine (a natural red food color from crushed cochineal insects), claims consumers are unaware they are eating crushed bugs when they buy Dannon’s ‘Fruit on the Bottom’ yogurts.

(Carmine is also widely used by other food manufacturers including Yoplait, although they have not been singled out by the CSPI).

“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 CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, who is sponsoring an online petition urging Dannon’s parent company Groupe Danone to ditch carmine.  

“Given the fact that it causes allergic reactions in some people, and that’s it easy to use safer, plant-based colors, why would Dannon use it at all? Why risk offending vegetarians and grossing out your other customers?”​ 

Dannon: Carmine is safe, we label it clearly, and people that want to avoid it can ...

However, Dannon says it has no plans to ditch carmine.

Speaking with FoodNavigator-USA this morning, Dannon senior director of public relations Michael Neuwirth said carmine was a safe and widely-used natural red food color and Dannon labels it clearly on pack.

He added: “We list it as ‘carmine’ on the label, so if there are people that want to avoid it for any reason, they can. We have no plans to make any chances as we have no health or safety concerns about it.”

Cooking with bugs? LycoRed seizes the PR initiative…

While carmine is a safe and effective natural alternative to synthetic red color FD&C Red #40, manufacturers have faced pressure to replace it from vegans, vegetarians, shoppers seeking kosher and halal products, plus those suffering from the ‘ick’ factor, claims LycoRed, which has seen sales of its tomato-based natural red colors surge in the past 18 months.

Unlike beet powder (which can lack heat and light stability) or anthocyanins from grape skin and purple carrot (which can change color in high pH formulations or turn brown in the presence of ascorbic acid), LycoRed’s Tomat-O-Red natural lycopene colorant is stable in the presence of ascorbic acid, keeps its shade in high pH dairy applications such as yogurt and can handle extreme heat and cold, LycoRed business development VP Doug Lynch told FoodNavigator-USA.

The firm, which has just released a tongue-in-cheek video on ‘cooking with bugs’, has been quick to seize the PR opportunity created by petitions against well-known brands over the use of carmine, and recently invited visitors to its booth at the IFT show to put their hands in a box packed with ‘creepy crawlies’.

“LycoRed produced a parody video on YouTube and website in part to educate consumers that bugs are in their food as colorants and consumers have options”, ​said Lynch.

“The video went viral, demonstrating that people really want to know what’s in their food.”

Click here​ to watch the video.

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