(RNS) — A Hindu advocate has called for an official apology from General Mills after learning Yoplait brand yogurts contain gelatin sourced from beef.

Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hindus, released a statement on March 19, which included a call for the resignation of General Mills CEO Jeffrey L. Harmening.

Zed said he was told by a friend that the popular yogurt product contained gelatin, but he did not know from where. He wrote a query to the consumer care department of General Mills and received a response, he said, after several tries: “The source of gelatin in all Yoplait Yogurt products is beef.”

“I was appalled,” Zed told RNS in an email.

Rajan Zed. (Courtesy photo)

Rajan Zed. (Courtesy photo)

Hindus commonly abstain from eating beef, believing cows are sacred and revered companions to the gods. Many Hindus venerate cattle as gaumata, or cow mother, an animal they see as nourishing both the body and soul through her supply of dairy. And in India, special protective shelters called gaushalas exist to ensure stray cows have a home.

“It is shocking for Hindus to learn that popular Yoplait yogurts, which many have been eating for years, contained beef, while beef was not explicitly mentioned under the ingredients listed on the Yoplait packages.

“It is a very serious issue for the devotees and would severely hurt their feelings if they would come to know that they were unknowingly eating beef-laced Yoplait yogurts,” he added.

In his statement, Zed urged General Mills to recall all Yoplait items containing gelatin where its source is not clearly mentioned and replace them with packages that “markedly declared source of gelatin under the ingredients label.”

“This issue, besides Hindus, also impacts vegetarians, vegans and devotees of other religions who do not consume certain kinds of meat,” Zed told RNS.

Zed’s organization has long been vocal against the “inappropriate usage or trivialization” of sacred Hindu images by corporations, such as a Lord Ganesha yoga towel and an IPA with the name “Kali the Destroyer.” 

General Mills did not respond to RNS for comment. Disclosure of the origin of gelatin, whether bovine, porcine or fish, is not a labeling requirement, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

In 2017, Zed slammed Kellogg’s for not disclosing the beef gelatin in their products, such as Frosted Pop-Tarts, Frosted Mini-Wheats and Rice Krispies Treats cereal. And more recently in 2023, Zed fought against Baskin Robbins for the marshmallows found in their Rocky Road ice cream, also derived from beef and pork gelatin. 

Zed says it is altogether safer for Hindus, and others with religious dietary restrictions, to avoid gelatin — traditionally made from collagen that comes from the bones and hides of cows and pigs — since there is no way to be certain about its origin without writing to the manufacturers. Or, he says, people should look for vegan gelatin alternatives.

“General Mills, which claims to be an ‘innovative company that stands for good,’ should not be in the business of hurting the sentiments of trusting consumers and communities and contradicting its own statement ‘Do the Right Thing, All the Time,’” said Zed.

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