Eeek! Can Someone Explain This Food Mystery?

by Bettina Elias Siegel on November 8, 2012

This morning I wanted to treat my kids to their favorite vanilla yogurt (yeah, it’s pretty sugary but we don’t have it often) topped with my homemade granola.

But when I opened the yogurt carton, instead of the expected firm white yogurt, I encountered this gelatinous, transparent goo:

And it was the same for all four cartons in my fridge:

I’m flummoxed – not to mention peeved that I wasted a fair amount of money on this stuff.  I’m going to see if I can reach someone at the company to explain, but if anyone has a clue what’s going on here, I’d really love to know!

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara M November 8, 2012 at 9:44 am

No explanation, but ewwwwww!

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Andi November 8, 2012 at 9:50 am

That’s nasty. They need to refund your money.

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Justin November 8, 2012 at 10:02 am

I love a good food science question and I think I have an educated guess…

I just quickly looked-up that brand of yogurt and it has added pectin, which is similar to gelatin and is what makes jelly and jams set into a jell. They’re probably using it to thicken the yogurt instead of straining it (which you’d do to make regular Greek yogurt) or it may be part of the fruit mixture.

I wonder if it’s possible that the whey separated from the yogurt and, due to improper storage temperatures, it somehow reacted with the pectin and turned the whey into jelly instead of thickening the yogurt.

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Bettina Elias Siegel November 8, 2012 at 10:34 am

I was hoping a food science person would chime in! That sounds like a reasonable explanation. I’ll let you know if I ever hear confirmation from the company.

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Angela November 8, 2012 at 10:35 am

The answer my husband (a Chef) gave me: (Note: I would have answered with “No clue.”)

“This may be due to a process called syneresis. This is when liquid is expelled from a gelled substance. It is possible that your yogurt product contains some gelling agent such as carrageenan or agar agar that mixed with the water that naturally escaped from the yogurt and then reset. Check the ingredients in the yogurt to see if it contains any thickening agents. I know that agar agar forms gels with a very similar color to that of your pictures when combined with water.”

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Bettina Elias Siegel November 8, 2012 at 10:40 am

Ahh… the pectin theory is gaining more credibility! Please thank your husband for sharing his expertise!

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hdcats November 8, 2012 at 11:13 am

Call the company & let them know. Most companies will send out coupons to replace the bad product so you are not out the money & then can let quality control know in case there is an issue with a certain lot of it.

A lot of yogurts are made in the container & if something goes wrong while everything is being put in you can get some interesting outcomes. I had a 32oz container of Dannon plain yogurt one time that missed getting the yogurt cultures. Talk about a mess as I peeled the foil off while carrying it to the counter- it was completely liquid inside & sloshed all over me & the floor.

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Bettina Elias Siegel November 8, 2012 at 11:32 am

Ick! And yes, I’ll see if they send me some sort of refund. I contemplated taking the open containers back to Whole Foods but it was just too gross.

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Nicki Rathert November 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Gross gross gross!

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Sylvie November 8, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I found something similar once in apple juice (and pectins shouldn’t have been involved). This is about the time I stopped eating processed food. The mystery was too great.

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Maid Mirawyn December 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Actually, apples contain lots of natural pectin, enough that people make homemade pectin from apples.

That doesn’t mean it was pectin that caused it (whatever it was), but don’t rule it out.

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Sophie November 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Hi Bettina!

I know I am late to this yogurt party, but others especially on chowhound.com have been complaining of the Liberte brand reformulation since GM took them over. Read other’s who have had similarly disappointing mysteries:
http://blog.generalmills.com/2012/06/40-new-yogurt-products/

I like Fage myself, but Noosa brand gets good recommendations, too. Alas, making yogurt from scratch, or at least draining plain yogurt to remove more whey, as Justin suggested, is really the ‘old school’ w(hey) which will ensure the most consistant product made to your preference:) I actually buy yogurt to age in my fridge for weeks. I eat it way past the ‘expiration date’ on the because I like it very sour (I am Greek, afterall) and extra bacteria have always done a body good when it comes to pro-biotics.

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Maid Mirawyn December 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Oh no! I love Liberte’s coconut yogurt more than any yogurt I’ve ever tasted. I really hope it doesn’t get all messed up . . . I would be so very sad!

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Bettina Elias Siegel December 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Maid Mirawyn: It was a fluke occurrence for us and I will say the company was very responsive. I’m still going to buy the product as my kids do love it now and then as a treat. (Pretty sugary, though!)

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bw1 November 9, 2012 at 12:26 am

Even if it left the factory perfect, if, at some point between packaging and getting to you, it spent some time at either too high, or too low a temperature, this could happen.
I’ve seen this happen after freezing and thawing the yogurt. The dogs were happy that day.
So, in addition to contacting the manufacturer, bring it to your grocer’s attention. They, or the truck that delivered it to them, could have malfunctioning refrigeration equipment.

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Liberte November 9, 2012 at 10:48 am

Hi Bettina,

That is definitely NOT what our yogurt should look like. We are terribly sorry for this issue and are taking this very seriously. Your email has been received and sent to our Quality and Regulatory team for investigation. We’ll respond as soon as we can get to the bottom of this.

Liberte

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Bettina Elias Siegel November 12, 2012 at 10:44 am

Just want to tell folks that the Liberte people have been very responsive and are refunding my money for the four cartons (via coupons.)

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Emma November 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm

No useful info, but do try Noosa: http://www.noosayoghurt.com/. They don’t have vanilla, but their honey is nice, and the strawberry-rhubarb is my favorite. It’s quite sweet, so definitely in the realm of treat/dessert. The milk all comes from a family-owned dairy that pastures their cows for a minimum of 90 days a year, and doesn’t use hormones or antibiotics. Seriously, it’s my favorite yogurt ever.

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Bettina Elias Siegel November 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I’ll look for it! It sounds great.

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