A wall of perfectly stacked pretty pink cups of yogurt beckoned to me at Safeway. Before I even picked up a cup to examine the ingredient panel, this package was desperately sending me a message:
- Check out my whimsical fonts! I’m light & fun!
- Coming in at just 100 calories, I fit right into your low-calorie deprivation diet, ladies!
- I’m with you in the fight against breast cancer! Buy me and you support breast cancer charities!
Does the product deliver what the branding promises? Let’s look at the label.
We start with the ingredient grouping for Fat Free Yogurt*. The ingredients in your yogurt should be Milk (or milk alternative) and Cultures. Period. Here, manufacturers removed naturally occurring fat to meet the low calorie needs of today’s calorie counting dieter, meaning a loss of mouth feel and flavor. So kosher gelatin (likely made from beef hides, though Yoplait doesn't disclose) and mono- & diglycerides are added to improve texture and emulsify a product that might separate otherwise.
Two artificial sweeteners are added to enhance the flavor to unnaturally sweet American preference. First there’s sucralose, the generic name for Splenda. There’s also Acesulfame Potassium. Potassium—isn’t that the good stuff in bananas and greens? Yes, it is. Acesulfame Potassium? Not so much. It’s an artificial sweetener.
The FDA’s classifies these sweeteners as “Generally Regarded as Safe,” but in a study of nearly 7,000 Americans who daily drank at least one artificially sweetened diet soda, they found a 67% greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and a 36% greater risk of metabolic syndrome—a group of risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol that lead to diseases like heart attack, stroke and diabetes. This is a correlation, not causation, but with so many unanswered questions, these sweeteners have no place in a product branding itself as a nutritious option for healthy people.
The “Fruit Blend” ingredient grouping is next, but the first ingredient in the isn’t fruit. It’s fructose, a sugar found in fruit, that is particularly insidious when removed from its original packaging. In January 2016, the very reputable University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center published a study that found high levels of fructose consumption—not by eating fruit, but by consuming the fructose out of its natural package—is directly related to the accelerated growth of breast cancer tumors in mice, warranting further study for human implications. Interesting to note that there is so little actual fruit in this “Fruit Blend,” Yoplait has added vegetable juice to add color reminiscent of fruit.
Yoplait is Pinkwashing. They’ve covered this package with pink, making consumers feel good about supporting a breast cancer charity by buying this product. Consumers will also make assumptions about the health benefits of this product by that association. But in truth, this is junky concoction made with ingredients correlated with obesity and disease, and linked to breast tumor growth in studies. Granted, one cup of this yogurt is not a killer. Not even ten cups. But this marketing is disingenuous at best. We deserve better!
Is your favorite food junk in disguise? Let's talk about it!
*Note that for the purpose of this post, I am not addressing the ethical concerns of dairy and inhumane treatment of cows in dairy production, the quality of dairy from cows living in these conditions, and the impact of antibiotic use in dairy operations on human health. These are a much larger issues, and while these raise very serious issues for me and many others, I’m putting it aside to address the other glaring issues that this product presents.