Dannon Yogurt NOT as Healthful as Previously Claimed [Inside the Label]

On Friday, Dannon Company announced it had settled a class action suit to the tune of $35 Million. The lawsuit was filed in early 2008, alleging that Dannon knowingly misled consumers in its marketing activities around its Activia yogurt line. The massive false advertising campaign convinced shoppers to pay 30% more for yogurt containing “probiotic” bacteria because of the products’ supposed health benefits.

While no nutritionist doubts the health benefit of yogurt, the question asked is what’s so special about Activia’s probiotics compared to other brands, and in and of themselves. Seems like a judge was going to provide the answer, but executives at Dannon decided to fog things up by dishing out millions of dollars AND not admitting to any wrongdoing.

In case you are wondering, here’s what you’ll find inside Activia Strawberry Yogurt.

What you need to know:

Here is the ingredient list: Cultured Grade A Reduced Fat Milk, Strawberry, Fructose Syrup, Sugar, Contains Less than 1% of Fructose, Whey Protein Concentrate, Corn Starch, Modified Corn Starch, Kosher Gelatin, Natural Flavor, Carmine (for Color), Sodium Citrate, Malic Acid.

You’ll notice the three distinct instances of added sugar, this on top of the sugar naturally present in the strawberries and the lactose (another sugar) naturally present in yogurt. The total sugar count is 17 grams per serving (just over 4 teaspoons).  The three added sugars only account for one teaspoon though. This is actually not too bad, and much better than Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt that clocks in at 27 grams of sugar.

As nutritional powerhouses, strawberries provide good amounts of fiber and vitamin C, but in Activia the strawberries have none left. Too bad.

Regarding the probiotic Bifidus Regularis, there is no clinical proof that they are better at preventing disease or regulating digestion compared to other products’ friendly bacteria.

As non-plain yogurts go, Activia is a better choice compared to Yoplait, mostly due to the lower sugar count.

What to do at the supermarket:

You could do better than both Dannon and Yoplait. Buy plain yogurt, and if you can, choose a large bulk container.

With minimal effort you can upgrade the plain  yogurt into a a truly healthy breakfast or snack:

1. toss in some diced seasonal fruit.

2. stir in a teaspoon of honey.

3. sprinkle flax seeds into the mix.


Help us test our new food comparison tool: alpha.fooducate.com

  • Christel

    I really did think this Activia brand had particular probiotic benefits as a unique selling point over yogurt overall…and I work in nutrition labelling!

    I’m very glad the company lost this time. It should set a precident I would hope for the safety of consumers. :)

  • Amanda

    How would one go about making plain yogurt into vanilla yogurt? I’d love to be able to just buy a big tub of plain and flavor it myself.

    • wholefoodlover

       add vanilla and a sweetener (I use honey).  you can get NATURAL sugar free honey from Nature’s Hollow.

      • 4youreyes

        Carmine is a bug powder!!!!!!..hmmmm makes you think what are you really eating. Download the fooducate app for android phones tells you if what your eating is really good for you

  • http://www.myheartsisters.org Carolyn Thomas

    Just shows what you can do with a multi-million $ advertising budget….

    Re vanilla yogurt – couldn’t we just add vanilla to the plain yogurt?

    Carolyn Thomas

  • Pat

    I ate Dannon light for the first time…today and it seems that the aspartame Iwhich I did not know earlier) has made me very uncomfortable

  • Briana

    Is there even such a thing as *Bifidus Regularis*?? It doesn’t even sound legit.!! Very nearly EVERY yogurt in the store has active probiotic bacteria that are beneficial to the digestive track. This is the reason it is recommended to eat yogurt after a stomach/intestinal virus or after a round of antibiotics that frequently cause gastric distress. On top of all this, sugars (particularly fructose) can actually cause gas and constipation in many people!

  • lisa

    I recently checked the ingredients listed on a container of Activia Yogurt. Agar is listed and when I looked it up I found Agar can be used as a laxative. Why would an otherwise healthy person want to eat something with added laxative? Why is Activia adding a laxative to yogurt? Be sure and check the ingredients of other foods claiming to have fiber, you may find many of them are adding “natural” forms of laxatives.

  • Molly Chapman

    Here, here!  Good for you for sharing this information. Are you referring to the class action law suit against Dannone re: Activia and DanActive probiotic drink on behalf of all Canadians? I love it! You’re going down, Dannone!

  • Amber

    @Lisa : Agar is a growth medium for the bacteria and also a stabilizer (to make the yogurt not so runny.) It’s not present in high enough concentration to cause a laxative effect. I work as a microbiologist for a company that grows food-grade bacteria and our media contains agar at a 1% or less concentration, which is diluted even further when added to finished product.

    @Briana : Bifidus Regularis is the trademarked name for Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. DN 173 010 – Danone can call it whatever they want to, because it’s “their” strain.