the worst of the worst...

do you know which plastics to completely avoid when it comes to food?

the answers are #3 (pvc), #6 (polystyrene) and #7 (other/polycarbonate). for the purpose of this post, we're talking about #6. and my total shock that it's being used to package foods intended for kids.

stonyfield (mostly known for their manufacture of organic yogurts and smoothies) is, by most measures, a great company. they get their milk from small, family-operated farms. they've made organics easy to attain by getting their products into walmarts across the nation. they give back to good causes. they recycle. they've even got dr. sears (attachment parenting guru) on their website, recommending their yogurt as a healthful option for snacking toddlers.

so why, then, is stonyfield yogurt packaging their yobaby yogurt (marketed directly for young babies and toddlers) in #6 plastic containers? especially when evidence suggests that polystyrene contains an endocrine disruptor that can leach into food? polystyrene is also not commonly recycled by curbside waste management companies (though stonyfield does promise to recycle these containers if the consumer ships them back to the company--at the consumer's expense). generally speaking, this plastic really is one of the worst of the bunch. for great information on all plastics, like what they're used for and what they're recycled into, click here.

i wrote to stonyfied asking for their reasons behind using suspect plastic to contain their yobaby yogurt. here's the response:
Thanks for your inquiry about our packaging. We appreciate hearing from
you. Because the use of any plastic can have an adverse effect on the
environment, we continuously search for packaging materials with lower
environmental impacts. For now, we believe the best option for our small
cups is polystyrene.

Simply put, the best way to minimize the environmental impacts of our
packaging is by reducing the overall amount of packaging material we use -
less packaging means less consumption of resources, less pollution and less
solid waste. We have significantly reduced the amount of packaging we use
through a series of design changes, such as eliminating the lids on our 6
oz. containers. The switch of our 4 oz. multi-packs to polystyrene was
another step. By switching to polystyrene cups, we were able to reduce the
packaging by 37% and prevent the manufacture and disposal of over 2.5
million lbs of material. In addition, we are molding the cups at our New
Hampshire facility, which eliminates the need to have empty cups shipped to
us. This saves fuel, reduces pollution including global warming gases and
eliminates additional packaging used to ship the empty cups.

From a food safety perspective, polystyrene has been determined by the both
the U.S. FDA and the European Union (EU) to be safe for packaging that is
in direct contact with food. The FDA requires the styrene content of the
packaging be less than 5,000 parts per million (ppm). The styrene content
in Stonyfield Farm’s polystyrene packaging does not exceed 400 ppm, or 92%
less than the allowable limit. If the low levels of styrene in our cups
still concern you, our yogurt can also be purchased in 32 oz. containers
made of polypropylene.


The folks at Stonyfield

well written, eh? almost, kinda believable--like, making me think i'm off the deep end with the fear of plastics. after all, i'm not heating her yogurt in these containers. is it really risky, after all? i thought a lot about this email after i got it today. and what i came up with was this:

in the end, i can only make the choices that are ruled by my gut. and that is (and has been) to choose alternatives to plastics, or safer plastics when no alternatives are available. after the trash inventory a short while back, i'd already committed to NOT buying yobaby yogurt, simply because the containers are not recyclable in my community. well, wouldn't you know i happened to be down the yogurt aisle at whole foods during a stonyfield promotion--they were giving away free 6-packs of yogurt. i couldn't resist.

now (despite an extremely well-written, canned response from stonyfield) i'm doubly motivated not to buy yobaby yogurt. and because of our trash inventory of days past (as well as the fact that most store bought yogurts have extra sugar added), i'm looking into making our own yogurt to cut down on waste. we're lucky to have local options for
divine yogurt in returnable glass jars, but it's beyond our budget at time being. if anyone has any tips, tricks or recipes for homemade yogurt, i'd love to hear them!


Jen said...

I don't make my own (though I hear it's easy). I do buy the plain whole milk organic yogurt and add my own organic fruit. Mostly banana, but I've had success w/ strawberry and blueberry, too. Sometimes I mix avocado in for an extra boost, as my little one is not on the charts for weight.

I get the yogurt in the big containers at Trader Joe's - very good price at $2.99 for organic, and no added sugar!

Mica said...

Why must you do this to me? I'm about to feed my son a Yobaby yogurt with his breakfast! Now, I feel guilty! I'd like to make my own yogurt too. I've heard a lot of people having success doing it in the crockpot. I don't have a recipe without googling though.

Rachael said...

There is a recipe to make yogurt in your crockpot! Here is the link
This was going around thenest.com / the bump.com a few years ago and everyone was raving about it! Good Luck!

Shauna said...

Thanks for posting this. I wish I didn't have 12 yobaby yogurts in my fridge right now but I am definitely not buying any more. I think that this might have been the push that I needed to try to make my own yogurt!

Sarah said...

I've only had moderate success with the crock pot yogurt.

BUT, I've been buying Trader Joe's new organic whole milk yogurt. It's the same thick consistency as their unorganic version, comes in 4 oz individual cups, made with #5 plastic.

I definitely prefer these to the yobaby, even before I knew about the plastic!

Jen said...

I don't think we have as many options when it comes to green food/packaging as you do in the US. All of our yogurt comes in plastic containers here. I feel yobaby to our LO and will continue to do so because 1. he loves it and 2. it is organic. BUT we can recycle the containers here. If we couldn't then I wouldn't have bought from them in the first place.

Mama Christina said...

I make my own yogurt - it's super easy!

I take a couple cups of whole (organic) milk, heat it in a pan until it's nearly simmering. Let it cool slightly, so it's warm but not hot. Add about 1/2 cup of yogurt (I just keep some plain in the refrigerator, if I want to add fruit or whatever I do that as we use it, so then I can reuse it as a starter.) Don't buy starter, just use yogurt. Anyhow. Then, put it on top of a heating pad, set on low, or on medium with a couple kitchen towels over it. Gently stir or whisk the yogurt in, cover it, let it sit for about 4 hours, voila. Yogurt. Easy. And my son LOVES it, just plain.

Green Mom said...

This just posted on a blog I write for. Thought it might help.

Erin said...

I've had very good success with the crockpot365 recipe. Whole milk is definitely the easiest to start with. I tend to use organic 2% milk. I do still use stonyfield plain yogurt as my starter/culture but it works very well.

The homemade yogurt is way better than storebought. My husband and I can't eat commercial yogurt anymore because it tastes too sweet to both of us now. And you can flavor it however you want.