Bugs in Your Yogurt Cup

Bugs in Your Yogurt Cup

Yogurt is great, right? Full of all that ‘friendly bacteria’ to help your gut stay healthy.  I bet you just thought you were eating microscopic bugs, didn’t you? No big deal.  Well, it turns out that if you’ve had any Dannon yogurt products lately, you may have been eating much larger bugs…as in crushed beetles.  That’s right, Dannon yogurt has been putting bugs in a cup along with your yogurt to make that pleasant red color and they have just been caught!

Dannon yogurt, you have probably eaten it at least once.  They make fruit-on-the-bottom, greek-style and that green-packaged Activia everyone is familiar with.  The full bug scoop has come in the following flavors and styles:

“Fruit on the Bottom” yogurts in strawberry, cherry, boysenberry, and raspberry, the strawberry flavor Oikos brand Greek yogurt in strawberry, pomegranate berry “Light and Fit” yogurt, blueberry “Light and Fit Greek” yogurt, and various Activia yogurts.

Apparently, Dannon thought they were very cleaver using the Beetle, a cochineal scale insect native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico, for coloring.  This same creepy critter has been used for years to color cosmetics such as lipsticks and has a native use of coloring textiles and other materials.  Of course, there are other ‘red’ coloring choices such as beets and a variety of vegetarian plant choices that would have been a lot more polite to use without consulting the non-bug eating market.  But, hey, we all eat some bugs unknowingly every day anyway, so what’s a little bug in my yogurt cup gonna do?

I once drank an entire watermelon juice in Thailand through a straw before realizing there was a giant bug lodged in my sipping device – Gross!!

Did you know 80% of the world’s population eats insects as a main form of protein? That’s right, bugs are considered a delicacy in many countries worldwide.

Gourmands in Japan savor aquatic fly larvae sautéed in sugar and soy sauce. De-winged dragonflies boiled in coconut milk with ginger and garlic are a delicacy in Bali.

Grubs are savored in New Guinea and aboriginal Australia. In Latin America cicadas, fire-roasted tarantulas, and ants are prevalent in traditional dishes. One of the most famous culinary insects, the agave worm, is eaten on tortillas and placed in bottles of mezcal liquor in Mexico.

In fact, some proponents of bug-eating say we should all switch to bugs instead of farm animals as our main protein source and the world would be much better off.  Maybe this is just a step in the ‘right direction?’ Or maybe there is just smashed red beetles in your yogurt you would have liked to have known were there.

So what is the big deal about beetles smashed in your yogurt cup?  “The smashed bug bodies are part of a chemical called carmine, which can trigger moderate to severe allergic reactions in ‘a small percentage’ of consumers.” Dannon doesn’t deny using carmine and says a lot of other common foods list this ingredient as well, such as certain ice creams, candies and beverages.  It’s not just smashed up bugs, they say, it’s an extract of the beetle and it takes somewhere around “40,000 of the little bugs to produce one pound of cochineal extract.”  Maybe we can just chalk it up to more protein in our yogurt and let it fly.

The other concern is vegetarians who have been unknowingly and unwillingly eating bugs for breakfast. Who knows what other ‘mystery’ ingredients get consumed under the title ‘natural and artificial flavors’, which can apparently disguise any number of items.  The basic point is, we generally like to know what it is we are eating, so we can have a choice in the matter of what goes into our bodies. That’s all, just list ‘beetle juice’ as an ingredient, and if the consumer wants to eat it – they’ll buy it.

Next time you want some strawberry, cherry, boysenberry or other ‘red’ berried fruit yogurt, maybe it’s time to take a stroll to the natural health aisle, where yogurt is actually not colored at all, but only contains the fruit and the yogurt culture and possibly a natural sweetener.  It might make your stomach feel better just knowing there are only microscopic ‘probiotic’ bugs in your cup and not Mexican beetles.

I couldn’t help but throw in this great TED video about eating bugs.  I mean, if we are going to take something seriously, let’s take it all the way:


Written by:  Stasia Bliss

Sources: Cosmopolitan; The Denver Channel; Franchise Herald; Center for Science in the Public Interest; National Geographic News

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