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Originally published December 3 2014

Big Food giants like General Mills and PepsiCo hijack yogurt industry

by Julie Wilson staff writer

(NaturalNews) What used to be one of America's go-to foods for a quick, healthy snack has been hijacked by Big Food and replaced with a product containing so many unhealthy, synthetic ingredients that critics say it's lost its identity.

Yogurt in its traditional form is a rich source of essential minerals, vitamins and probiotics, and is thought to boost gastrointestinal health and aid with digestion. However, with today's food industry jumping on the organic bandwagon, there are now more unhealthy brands of yogurt (many of which probably shouldn't even be called yogurt) on store shelves than ever before.

Luckily for the consumer, Wisconsin-based food and farm policy research group The Cornucopia Institute has kept a close eye on the evolving market of yogurt, tracking and identifying which brands to buy and which ones to avoid.

Released in November, their latest project, entitled Culture Wars: How the Food Giants Turned Yogurt, a Health Food, into Junk Food, not only includes a comprehensive report[PDF] on the yogurt industry but a scorecard rating 114 brands, separating the healthy and unhealthy choices.

The report "alleges that agribusiness, in their marketing approach, has capitalized on yogurt's historic, well-deserved healthful reputation while simultaneously adulterating the product, sometimes illegally, to gain competitive advantage and popular appeal."

Food giants like General Mills (Yoplait), Groupe Danone (Dannon), Walmart and PepsiCo have hijacked the healthy food industry through products like yogurt, marketing them as healthy when in reality they're anything but.

Carrageenan, artificial sweeteners, added sugars, added artificial coloring, added artificial flavors, synthetic nutrients and milk protein concentrate are just a few of the ingredients to watch out for when buying yogurt.

Candy bars and Food Big yogurt brands have equivalent sugar content

Testing by Cornucopia found that some brands of flavored yogurts, such as strawberry or blueberry, actually contain NO real fruit and have so much sugar that they're comparable to candy bars! The most disturbing part about this is that many yogurts are marketed to children as a "healthy" alternative.

Many non-organic yogurts use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, which has been attributed to brain tumors and neurological disease in laboratory animals, and sucralose, which has actually been shown to kill beneficial gut microflora. There's also a strong correlation between non-caloric artificial sweeteners and obesity.

"What is most egregious about our findings," said Mark A. Kastel, codirector of the research group, "is the marketing employed by many of the largest agribusinesses selling junk food masquerading as health food, mostly aimed at moms, who are hoping to provide their children an alternative, a more 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."

Research group asks FDA to enforce legal definition of "yogurt" on product labeling

Based on its recent findings, Cornucopia filed a complaint with the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to investigate whether or not store brands like Walmart's Great Value violate the legal standard of identity for products labeled as "yogurt."

"The reason that Kraft has to call Velveeta® 'processed cheese-food' is that some of the ingredients used, like vegetable oil, cannot legally be in a product marketed as 'cheese,'" Kastel explained.

Another controversial ingredient being used in Big Food-branded yogurts is milk protein concentrate (MPC), an ingredient used to increase protein levels and improve texture. Cornucopia alleges that some manufacturers are importing MPC from countries like India, which do not meet yogurt's current legal standard of identity.

The healthiest choices on Cornucopia's Buyer's Guide include yogurts with a short list of ingredients, including organic milk and live cultures -- with limited amounts of added organic fruit or unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup.


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