A class action lawsuit has been filed against General Mills for misrepresenting the product it calls Yoplait Greek. It isn’t Greek, and it isn’t yogurt. The sales of Yoplait Greek already lag far behind other brands such as Chobani and Fage in an exploding Greek yogurt market, and this latest lawsuit won’t help any.
“Yoplait Greek does not comply with the standard of identity of yogurt,” the lawsuit states. “Indeed, Yoplait Greek contains Milk Protein Concentrate (“MPC”) which is not among the permissible ingredients of yogurt, non-fat yogurt, and low-fat yogurt (collectively “yogurt”) as set forth under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”
Authentic Greek yogurt is thicker in consistency and richer in protein because it’s strained of liquid whey. But MPC offers an alternative to this process. It is, as described on FoodNavigator-USA, “a very high protein dry milk product, which has been touted for use in Greek-style products to increase their protein content and provide a thick, creamy texture without the need for expensive straining.”
In its corporate eagerness to claim a larger share of the Greek yogurt market, General Mills adds MPC to Yoplait Greek because, as reported in the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, it is “cheaper to store and transport than wet milk and costs less than dry milk due to minimal tariffs on MPC imports and lower foreign milk prices.” New Zealand is the biggest supplier of MPC to the United States. In short, as stated in the lawsuit, “The use of MPC is financially advantageous to defendants.” It allows General Mills to manufacture more product at lower cost, and that’s the only reason it’s in the yogurt.
Never mind that the use of the substance in yogurt flouts FDA rules for the standard of identity of the food. So far the extent of General Mills’s defense is that the FDA never explicitly prohibited MPC in yogurt. That’s a lesson in logic. Any substance that is not explicitly prohibited is officially permitted.
Never mind, as well, the questionable safety of the substance, which is not included on the FDA list of substances generally recognized as safe (GRAS) or on the FDA list of food additives. In other words, it hasn’t actually been approved for use in food.
MPC is made by a process called ultra-filtration, which involves separating the components of skim milk according to molecular size and then drying the milk proteins into a powder. The presence of a substance like MPC in a food that promises wholesome nourishment can’t be right. (See Food & Water Watch’s page on milk protein concentrates for more information.) Then again, MPC is only one of a number of ingredients contained in mass-produced yogurt — including added sweeteners, stabilizers, colors and flavors — that don’t belong there. You only need two ingredients to make good old-fashioned yogurt: milk and live, active cultures.
Like so many “health” foods, yogurt is a victim of its popularity, and its quality as food has eroded under the pressure for profit and competition for market share.