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HEALTH

Watchdog warns French consumers about the dangers of their beloved yoghurt

Yoghurt, as anyone who has seen the impressive rows of dairy products in French supermarkets will have deduced, is a staple of the French diet and is often flaunted for its health benefits. But perhaps not for much longer.

Watchdog warns French consumers about the dangers of their beloved yoghurt
Photo: AFP

Industrially-produced yoghurts may be bad for your health because of the number of food additives they contain, a leading French consumer watchdog has warned. 

In a new report entitled “Foods that are poisoning us”, ‘60 millions de consommateurs’ scanned 100 different foods sold in French supermarkets for their sugar, fat, salt, nitrates, additives and pesticides content, with some sobering results.

“Despite all the talk by the big food brands about healthy eating, junk food is still very much around. Processed foods are all over the shelves,” the watchdog said. “Even yoghourts haven’t been spared from the additive onslaught.”

Putting additives in yoghurt however is strictly forbidden in France. 

According to a 1988 law, only flavouring and sugar or other foodstuffs “giving a specific flavour and amounting to no more than 30% of the weight of the yoghurt can be added”, the report explained.

“Everything that isn’t mentioned [in that law] is banned. Since additives are not foodstuffs, they are forbidden too,” the report said. 

“But the dairy industry has found a way around this by making up its own rules. It adds colouring, sweeteners and other ‘additives’ in mixtures added to the yoghurts”.

The report cites a brand of yoghurt with a fruit compote as an example, which it found contained 12 food additives.

“The industry get round it by saying that the additives are added to the fruit mix, not to the yoghurt itself. This scam alters a food that is supposed to be simple and good for you. Consumers are deceived. It’s unacceptable,” the watchdog deplored..

On average, French people eat 150 pots of yoghurt per person a year. 

Up until the middle of the 20th century, they were largely made by farmers and small-scale producers but after the 1960s, dairy companies such as Danone, the world’s largest yoghurt maker, took over the market. 

Today, after the Swiss food giant Nestle, French dairy food companies Danone and Lactalis rank as the world’s largest.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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