The latest weapon in the Yogurt Wars is stupid science

So sweet and innocent—until it starts spouting bad science.
So sweet and innocent—until it starts spouting bad science.
Image: AP Photos/John Minchillo
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If you’ve seen a Chobani commercial for its new Simply 100 Greek Yogurt line, you’d be forgiven for thinking that its competitor’s product—Dannon’s Light ‘n Fit Greek—contained the toxic chemical chlorine.

The commercial stops short of making that completely false statement, outright. But it does show a woman lounging poolside, examining an ingredients label, exclaiming: “Dannon Light ‘n Fit Greek actually uses artificial sweeteners like sucralose. Sucralose? That stuff has chlorine in it!”

The woman is apparently so upset by this that she throws the Dannon yogurt into a bin labeled “towels.”

Her—and Chobani’s—understanding of food science is apparently no better than her ability to correctly deduce the purpose of a clearly labeled bin. If only someone in their team understood basic chemistry, Chobani could have saved themselves embarrassment.

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener widely used in low-calorie foods. It has been deemed safe for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration. Its chemical make-up does happen to contain three atoms of chlorine—as well as 12 atoms of carbon, 19 atoms of hydrogen, and eight atoms of oxygen.

This is not unusual. Many elements which are toxic if consumed on their own are combined with other elements to form compounds that are useful and safe. Some two-thirds of all drugs manufactured contain chlorine atoms in the final drug or its intermediates.

So on Jan. 11Dannon filed a case to put an injunction on Chobani’s ad. And on Jan. 29, the court ruled in Dannon’s favor. In the ruling, judge David Hurd wrote, “Chobani’s other challenged messages—that its products are ‘good’ or that Dannon’s artificial ingredients are ‘bad stuff’—are merely puffery about the superiority of its own natural products.”

Dannon is now seeking damages.