O’Soy Yogurt: Not Vegan

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From the WTF?!!! Files:

This week I picked up some O’Soy yogurt, as I occasionally do. But I was stunned when my wife pointed this out on the label:

O’Soy: Not Vegan

It reads: “Contains milk (our active live cultures are milk-based).”

Perhaps it was naive of me to assume that soy yogurt would be, you know, non-dairy. But I guess you can’t trust a company who makes the bulk of their money from selling milk. Needless to say, there’s no way I’ll be buying any of their products going forward and they’ll definitely be receiving a call at 1-800-PRO-COWS (happy milk!) tomorrow. Might I encourage you to do the same to register your displeasure? And spread the word?

This is either a new thing or something they just decided to start divulging, as I definitely don’t recall seeing this on the label before.

I’m getting to the point where I feel like I can only trust vegan companies. Maybe Chicago Soy Dairy will start making yogurt?

62 Responses to “O’Soy Yogurt: Not Vegan”

  1. Becci

    I guess I’m just not surprised because of all the soy and rice cheeses that contain casein. Blech.

  2. katie

    I just recently had this happen too! I ate a chocolate one (which was not that great to begin with) and then realized AFTER the fact that it wasn’t vegan. I was surprised since there are plenty of other soy yogurts that are *supposedly* vegan – so why would they use a dairy source for the cultures?

  3. Sam

    Ryan – very weird. I, too, recently bought some of this yogurt and mine does not contain the same label on the back. It does, however, say “May contain traces of milk” on the side under the big “Rueten” R, but no mention of milk-derived bacteria. Here is a blurry picture of the side of the carton, which differs from yours.

    http://www.pbase.com/xsamx/image/84684054.jpg

    Stonyfield’s website doesn’t list the milk, either: http://www.stonyfield.com/OurProducts/AllNaturalCulturedSoy.cfm and of course there is nothing about it in their FAQ.

  4. Jul

    That is ridiculous. Am I going to have to start checking my veggie burgers for meat, too?

  5. meridith

    I was never a huge fan of O’Soy, it tasted too sickly sweet for me, but this is even more reason to avoid their products. If you can locate it at your local store, Whole Soy makes pretty decent, vegan, soy yogurt.

  6. Marcy

    yeah since most soy cheeses, margarines and lots of veg meats/brugers etc aren’t vegan, i’m a long-term and thus suspicious vegan type who reads every label obsessively 3 times esp. the fine print. it’s what you gotta do. and NOT just new stuff, you have to keep re-reading and re-checking on what you already eat, because stores often change recipes, for ex Yves, and all of a sudden it’s not vegan. (Or the fact that Au Bon Pain didn’t bother to mention they strated using fish chum in ALL of their salad dressings a few years back. yum. only found that one out the hard way, by googling an obscure unrecognizable listing in font 5)

  7. Mike

    I definitely don’t assume that every soy-based product is vegan. I’ve run into non-vegan soy milk, soy yogurt, soy burgers, soy margarine, and soy cheese. So many of these products are actually meant for Jews keeping kosher, lactose intolerant people, dieters, and “health nuts” that one cannot assume they are vegan.

  8. ryan

    I generally don’t assume, but this one really shocked me because, as far as I know, all of the other soy yogurts are vegan (Whole Soy, Silk, Wildwood). Very odd.

  9. darrek

    On the bright side, Boca chicken patties are now vegan which made my day when I heard that.

    But yeah, I don’t get this yogurt thing at all. The soy and rice cheeses need casin to melt like dairy cheese (tho Cheezly has supposedly gotten around that one), but I can’t understand what using dairy cultures to O’Soy would add. It must be a lot cheaper, why else would they write off their customers who are vegans and have milk allergies?

  10. Vegan_Noodle

    Wow, that’s quite disappointing. Makes me want to check and make sure the soy yogurt I’m eating (Silk) doesn’t use milk-based cultures. I’m guessing they would have to label them as such?
    Veggie burgers are almost the worst too. I basically can’t ever order them when I go out to restaurants because the staff can never tell me if they’re vegan or not, and I know too many of them contain egg or dairy. Sucks.

  11. Vegan Sommelier

    Well… Stonyfield is mostly a dairy business, with the O’Soy line being practically an afterthought, so although I’m VERY upset about this, I can’t say I’m too surprised. Especially after Dannon (or “Danone”) bought Stonyfield last year (at least I think that’s when it was; toward the end of 2006), I wondered what changes might be made. It crossed my mind that they might stop producing the O’Soy line altogether, or start using some sort of dairy ingredient in it.

    I suppose it’s an easy way to increase the amount of O’Soy they can produce, since dairy-based cultures can be grown faster… not to mention the fact that it’s probably more efficient from a business standpoint to not have to worry about separate cultures for different product lines; everything can be cranked out assembly-line style from the same place with the same materials, equipment, etc. Efficient, yes, but not ethical… and definitely NOT VEGAN.

    First there was the Wholesoy recall back in June, and now O’Soy contains dairy *intentionally*… I’m not exactly feeling much confidence in soy yogurt at all these days.

  12. Veggie Chic

    [...] You’d think soy yogurt would be a vegan product, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong. [...]

  13. bazu

    This must be new- I never remembered seeing this on O’Soy’s label before… how disappointing. Anyway, Silk yogurts and kefirs taste much better. Sucks to O’Soy. =6

  14. selina

    I used to buy that. Then one day I noticed that little comment. I thought maybe I had just missed it at first. I am glad to hear someone else didnt see it either!

    I love Chicago soy dairy’s ice cream & would be elated if they started making yogurt.

  15. A J

    I also saw this for the first time the other day and wondered if it was new, I just don’t think I would have missed seeing it.

  16. Vegan Sommelier

    Don’t worry; you didn’t miss it… it wasn’t there before. I used to buy O’Soy, and double-checked the ingredients every single time I bought it (due to my dairy allergy, I need to be extra careful).

    Incidentally, I actually called Stonyfield a few months ago to make sure that there was no dairy in the O’Soy products (I think it was sometime back around the start of 2007), and they assured me that their O’Soy was indeed dairy-free and vegan. I even asked specifically if their active cultures were dairy-derived, and at the time I was told that they were not.

    But… now they are, so not that it matters anymore.

  17. Christopher

    Milk is so easy to cut out in it’s liquid form, but milk ingredients are so wide spread that I spend most of my time reading ingredients lists when I’m in the middle isles now a days. It really is quite a pain.

  18. Kim

    That is so crappy. It makes me glad though that Scott and I have now moved somewhere where we have access to good grocery stores that stock other options, as opposed to being at the mercy of Walmart, where I hated shopping at anyway. They only stocked O’Soy soy yogurt, so that’s what I was buying before we moved here. I had no idea the ingredients had changed. Argh.

  19. Kristen

    its insane. I saw that this week too :(

  20. Marcy

    A few article links that seemed interesting re human evolution and eating habits:

    Early man ‘couldn’t stomach milk’
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6397001.stm

    Starch ‘fuel of human evolution’
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6983330.stm

    Meat and fish taste ‘inherited’
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5073196.stm

  21. Brigid

    I was shocked to see this on the label as well. My baby has a milk protein allergy and so we have been giving him this O’Soy yogurt. This was not on the label before (I know b/c I found some expired yogurt without it on the label). I wonder if they have changed their method of making it or they just decided to tell us this information. I will be extremely upset if it is the latter, considering that means I have been exposing my son to milk protein! Silk soy yogurt is completely vegan.

  22. Brigid

    I just called them and they said they have not changed their practices, only updated their label. The lady on the phone assured me that it was only a little bit of milk….THAT IS NOT THE POINT! Exposing someone with a milk protein allergy to any milk will potentiate the allergy. I am so upset I have been giving this to my child for the last few months. And they are still exploiting animals to make this product…even if it is “just a little bit”. I don’t know who is going to buy this product, not vegans, not people with a milk allergy. I bet they will see their sales go down!

  23. Hamlet

    This just happened to me over the Labor Day Weekend.

    My wife and I were about to drive home, but decided to eat before we were about to make the journey. After lunch, we passed a supermarket and I decided that we should get some snacks for when we get hungry later instead of dealing with the hopeless selection of vegan snacks encountered at highway rest stops. For the omnivores out there, yes, that’s where vegans get all our special “expensive” vegan food,like fruits ,vegetables and exotic oriental grains called “rice”. The supermarket.

    I had a hankering for some soy yogurt, I don’t buy it regularly, but when I do, I get Whole Soy & Co, mostly because it’s the only one marketed around where I usually shop. I checked out the freezer case in this out of town supermarket and they had Stonyfield Farm’s O’Soy which I had never seen before, but picked it up without reading the label. When I used to eat cows’ milk yogurt their brand was one of my preferred ones. As I was vegetarian, I avoided the yogurts with gelatin like Dannon in favor of Stonyfeild Farm. I wasn’t even “hardcore” in my vegetarainism back then, I just didn’t see why ground up animal bones needed to be in dairy.

    I began eating my newly purchase O’Soy in the car and joked to my wife, “I probably shouldn’t be eating this since it’s indirectly supporting the dairy industry since Stonyfield Farm primarily makes dairy yogurt.” As expected, she rolled her eyes and called me a freak (as far as her diet goes, she’s 99% vegan, so she’s allowed to call me a freak since she’s one too). “I’m just joking around!” I exclaimed, and we had a brief light-hearted discussion about the implications of whether it was good to support a vegan product from a dairy industry source or whether the money spent went back to supporting the dairy industry.

    So I’m half way though my yogurt and I happen to turn the back around to read the ingredients and there it is, in bold letters, just like your photo. CONTAINS MILK

    WTF?!? NOT VEGAN!

    My wife laughed and said I should have read the ingredients beforehand, which I typically do, but I reasoned, not unlike you, that if a company markets both dairy and an alternative soy yogurt, then it would be likely that the soy yogurt would be free of milk derived ingredients, otherwise, what’s the point of offering an alternative?

    So my notion of boycotting products from diary related marketers wasn’t so silly after all as I’d rather support a company that has zero connection to the dairy industry so that they don’t begin mixing their secretions into other products that don’t need them and the money I give them won’t in anyway go toward bothering bovines.

    On a side note, I have friends that knew me as a vegetarian for years and would always buy and cook up a veggie burger for me at get-togethers. I always refuse them now, it’s less bother to ask what brand they are (if it’s even possible to find out) and I just assume veggie burgers have animal products in them (looking at you Gardenburger) unless I read the ingredients and purchased them myself.

    There’s always crudités and salad; whole food with apparent ingredients are better than a processed burger in a white bread bun with high fructose condiments.

  24. Becci

    Brigid–I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been giving this crap to your child! Good for you for calling them–they suck for TOTALLY missing the point. I have a lot of food allergies myself and I would never put up with someone saying something as stupid as “it’s just a little ____”.

  25. Allison

    When I emailed Stonyfield to complain, this is the reply I got from them:

    “To answer your question regarding whether O’Soy is completely dairy free, the O’Soy may contain traces due to shared equipment, but it also may contain traces due to the fact that some of the cultures used are dairy based. The cultures are used at such a low level that if any dairy is present it is at a minuscule amount. If you’re highly allergic to dairy we do not recommend usage. The formula has not changed, but if there are any dairy concerns, it is best to consult with your physician.”

    I’d written a very vegan-specific complaint letter, and I feel like this response misses the point completely. Maybe if enough of us complain, they’ll reconsider the ingredients they use. Or at least come up with a better form-letter response. Oy!

  26. Andrew

    horrible horrible horrible…I’m wondering if this one is actually a legal issue…reason is that the product is advertised as “dairy free” on the label did not have the same side label before. Our daughter is highly allergic to milk and our understanding from our physician is that the level or “toxins” builds up over time so that our daughter is less likely to become allergy free the more exposure she has.

    Does anyone know of legal action taken against companies that advertise dairy free and then later say their product has dairy?

  27. basecolumns

    [...] story here No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI [...]

  28. Bernadette [[for animal rights!]]

    I recently became a vegan, and decided it would be nice to have some yogurt. O’Soy is the only soy yogurt offered at my local store, so I took a look at it. On the front it said “LACTOSE FREE” so I was happy and bought some… BUT when I got home I looked at the back of the yogurts and saw the “CONTAINS MILK” label! I was so mad! And I find the two labels a bit contradicting… Now I have no choice but to eat them, unless someone else in my family will. I mean, it’s sure not doing the cows any good if I throw them away >.<

  29. Danielle

    I was just on the Silk website and their Silk soy yogurt is vegan.

  30. ryan

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure all soy yogurts except for O’Soy are vegan.

  31. liz

    I sat at work eating my soy yogurt and read the label I couldnt believe that it had milk in it.What is the point of selling a soy yogurt if it is going to have milk in it, it seems pointless.

  32. Soybabe

    Hi found your site while looking for different soy yogurt for my daughter who is allergic to diary. There might not be milk in the yogurt. Companies have to mark on their food labels any common food allergen in their products and a lot of times they write “may contain” to keep themselves safe in case a does have a trance about of milk in it. I can understand why that might not matter to you anyways, (my daughter eats O’soy and I’m most likely switching yogurts) but I just thought I’d let you know.

  33. Ryan

    Hi Soybabe — What you say is correct in general about the “may contain” on labels, but in this case, the product itself does actually contain milk. It explicitly says on the label:

    “Contains milk (our active live cultures are milk-based).”

    Which, to this day, I still find absurd. I haven’t bought a Stonyfield Farm product since.

  34. Sghetti

    I am feeling very annoyed and angry. Annoyed and angry at myself that I did not read the Stonyfield Soy yogurt label to find milk in the ingredients. And angry that I put my trust in Stonyfield. I am allergic to dairy and a vegetarian. I usually read all my labels. What a mistake!!!!No wonder I wasn’t feeling as well as I should.
    Thanks to all who put this info out for us non-readers to see.

  35. theuglyearring

    http://www.nancysyogurt.com/nancys_products/soy.php

    and finally a soy yogurt that proudly boasts a vegan label and is not loaded with sugar!

    soybabe…our daughter loves it

  36. Siri

    Just happened to me too. I wish I had read this before I ate that yogurt. I feel duped, I can’t believe I didn’t read below the ingredients where it states it contains milk. Yuck!

  37. Susan

    I was also terribly disappointed to learn that O’Soy intentionally contains dairy.

    My kids both have severe milk allergies. I called Stonyfield a while back to inquire about their labeling “may contain traces of milk” and I was told they are required by law to put that warning on the soy yogurt because they run the product on the same line as their dairy yogurt and their is a small chance of cross-contamination.

    However, I was assured that they regularly test the O’Soy for presence of dairy and while the FDA standard was 20 ppm, their policy was 8ppm, much lower than the federal requirement.

    O’Soy is the *only* soy yogurt available in our area (and I felt joyed to see it on the shelves because alternative food products are SO rare here). So I made my peace with the information Stonyfield gave me and decided to buy it for the kids.

    But now, it seems that they’ve told 10 different stories about the dairy situation. And, if they truly did just “update” the label rather than make an ingredient change, then their soy yogurt has *always* contained some milk on purpose, which means I was lied to when I called.

    The nearest store that sells Whole Soy requires a two hour drive. Silk used to be carried in my local stores but after a while it was discontinued from their stock. I guess not enough people willing to buy it? I don’t know, but this basically leaves my kids with no yogurt since I am no longer buying O’Soy.

    I won’t buy soy yogurt from a company that cannot keep it’s story straight when asked about allergens. Apparently they concerned about catering to all the folks who follow a vegan diet and those who must deal with milk sensitivities.

    Like so many of you said, I just don’t see what the point is. Who do you market a soy yogurt to if it contains milk? What’s the target buyer in this situation?

  38. Susan

    Oops… that’s suppose to be “apparently they AREN’T concerned…”

  39. Carl

    I’m not a vegan, but am a respectfully curious person. I ran across this discussion while researching soy yogurt, and am surprised that no one has yet suggested making one’s own soy yogurt by innoculating soy milk with what one knows to be non-dairy-based bacterium. I’d appreciate any insight from a vegan’s POV. Tx in advance.

  40. Lidia

    My youngest son now 18 months is allergic to cows milk protein. I learned the hard way how to read labels and realized that I have to be extra careful since almost everything contains dairy. However, I never thought soy yogurt could contain dairy. I usually shop at Trader Joes, this store chain has been the best source for dairy free products but the other day I shopped at Shop Rite and they only soy yogurt available was the O’soy 4oz cups and of course, I assumed they were milk free. After I fed my son he got a rash around his mouth and was very fusy so I read the label to find out that they yogurt contains milk base cultures. I can tell you how mad I am that I company that I trust has compromised my baby’s health. It is totally unacceptable.

  41. Pissed off

    Stonyfield deserves death. Before this labeling when i called their PRO COWS toll free number, the shits there assured me it was vegan. Typical corporate scum trying to cash in on the soy/vegan/yogurt craze.

  42. Angry as well

    I am also mad about this. I was in the middle of eating one of these yogurts and saw that milk culture thing on the label. My husband called to complain. I think it shouldn’t be allowed to be called soy yogurt if it has milk in it.

  43. But I'm not Mad

    I just bought some of this soy-yogurt today. For me, I need to reduce animal based fat, so this is a perfect food. If it contains milk to produce cultures that’s fine with me. If you need a vegan product, buy something else. Take responsibility for your own extremist dietary regimens, don’t think the healthy food industry exists to satisfy your needs and throw out terms like lawsuit and “so mad”.when an individual product does not.

  44. ryan

    If it contains milk to produce cultures that’s fine with me.

    Yeah, but it’s not with others.

    For me, I need to reduce animal based fat, so this is a perfect food.

    Never mind that there are far better foods, but a vegan’s so-called “extremist dietary regimen” gets rid of those animal fats altogether.

  45. lotus

    I agree with Ryan. Regardless if you are vegan or not,(which i happen to be)it is unethical and wrong to advertise to be milk free and have a label saying contains milk; they deserve a lawsuit in my opinion. I have never eaten the product and now never will. I suppose I will stick with my wholesoy yogurt.

  46. Flora singleton

    I agree with Ryan. I was disappointed to find cows milk in the soy yogurt, especially now that I’ve found out about pus in cows milk(I’ve gone dairyless). I think it’s a shame and an all out lie. Needless to say, I won’t be buying your product anymore and I’m telling the entire church population who has just started using your soy products. We’ve had an impact on the health food industry in our town in just a few weeks. I’m hoping to do the same with this product. Besides, this is not the tasiest or best textured yogurt and the calorie count is more than I expected.

  47. Logan Anderson

    Has anyone noticed that the O’Soy vanilla tastes like wet dog? Dog run-off is most certainly an animal product.

  48. Layla

    Damn I’ll just stick to veggies and fruits and nuts then I found out stupid companies were placing gelatin in yogurts and jello >:(

  49. Cheryl Johnson

    I don’t care for the flavor of O’Soy’s peach flavored soy yogurt so I decided today to search to see if they make any other flavors. That’s when I saw this blog topic in my search results. I’m shocked…but I didn’t think to read the label either. My little cup does read “CONTAINS SOY AND MILK (OUR LIVE ACTIVE CULTURES ARE MILK BASED.)” so I think I’ll try the Nancy’s brand as it boasts 100% vegan ingredients. I looked them up at: http://www.nancysyogurt.com/dealers/index.php and they’re sold at Hannaford’s in the Northeast at least.

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  51. Lupo

    .. Very disappointing. I just noticed this too and decided to look it up… I was trying to go Vegan for the past three days; I guess that’s all gone to waste. Did no one tell this company that False Advertising is illegal? There’s even milk in salad croûtons. I didn’t learn that until after grabbing, buying and bringing them home.

    If you want to be Vegan, Tennessee is clearly not the place to do it. There’s hardly a big enough selection for veggies, even in walmart. As for veggie burgers, 2 brands, and both overly expensive.

    Also, I got a little scared when Hamlet mentioned the Gardenburgers, because that’s the brand I bought, and am rather fond of compaired to BOCA… But I didn’t find any animal products in the ingredients list…?

  52. Sherry Fudim

    I noticed the exact same thing and wondered why i had never noticed it before. I feel duped as well. I will call them and let them know how deceptive this product is.

  53. Aussiebach

    I like soy and I enjoy milk. Why would it arouse so much strange email and such horrible language to complain about a yummy product like O’Soy? The purpose of a soy product in a milk product is to enjoy – using intelligence to read labels is not an option for vegans, apparently!
    I use my teeth for the purpose they were put in my mouth, by the way, to rip meat off the bones!!!
    Cook your own vegetable burgers, that’s what I do.

  54. Ryan

    Aussiebach – Um… the reason I discovered that there’s milk in O’Soy is because I read the label. So, I don’t understand your implication about vegans not reading labels. That was kind of the point of the post.

    O’Soy does not market itself as a milk product. It markets itself as a soy yogurt, which — from every other manufacturer — is vegan.

  55. aussiebach

    I’m sorry I was mean, Ryan.
    I get so tired of having to read labels for salt and goodness knows what othe nasty things – what about words over nine letters long and with an ‘x’ – sure to be something revolting.
    Soy used to be my main source of protein till I developed an allergy to American soy – not Australian. After about six years I’ve just started eating it again – yum!

  56. jess

    This just happened to me, I bought it to try for my kids who love yogurt thinking it was vegan and was disgusted to find out differently. I’m calling tomorrow. They are very misleading with their label, just another lesson in reading the ingredients more carefully. I’ll just stick to coconut yogurt from now on.

  57. Renee Weinberg

    I was unhappy to discover yesterday that you are making O’Soy yogurt with milk cultures. I am a vegan and always loved your yogurt. You didn’t used to have milk based soy cultures in your O’Soy yogurt, at least not on the label. The reason I discovered this is because my friend is very allergic to milk and she had a reaction to your O’Soy yogurt.

  58. Auset

    THIS IS NOT GOOD! It’s back to the other company who’s vegan soy yogurt is $1.09 for ONE cup! One of my sons have milk allergies!!

  59. India

    I’m not sure why everyone is upset over this… yes veterian foods have come a long way but their is still much to be done. No company is in business no to make a profit. That’s why they are in business. They are not going to cater to just a few thousand people when there are millions of people that they can make a product for who love it. I’m lactose intolerant and I love this because its smooth does have all that crapy pulp in it and tastes good.
    There are more people out ther that can’t eat regular yogurt but still need the probiotics than there are actual “praticing” vegans. If you don’t like their soy yogurt then make one yourself and see if you can turn a profit too.

  60. ryan

    There are plenty of vegan yogurt manufacturers that don’t use dairy-derived probiotics that are turning profits. In fact, every single other soy yogurt on the market uses non-dairy-derived probiotics.

    And sorry to burst your bubble, but there are WAY more than “a few thousand” people in the market for a vegan yogurt.

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  62. Sonja

    Just accidentally bought this non-vegan yogurt. BLAH!

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