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Is Greek yogurt really Greek yogurt?

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If you don't have Greek yogurt in the fridge, chances are you've never tried it. In the last few years it has become the grocery aisles' newest and biggest star. It's so appealing because it's richer and creamier, and it's really good for you.

There are many brands of Greek yogurts, and Chobani is the biggest seller. More familiar names like Yoplait are trying to get in on the Greek yogurt craze.

But there is an issue with that. Traditional Greek yogurt makers say Yoplait and others like it are "imitations." A class-action complaint claims they cut corners by using food additives, and say it is not real Greek yogurt.

Ron Marks owns Atlanta Fresh Yogurt.  By any standard, he makes traditional Greek yogurt. He's closely watching a legal battle over which yogurts can be called Greek yogurt.

"You're getting hoodwinked," said Marks.

Greek yogurt uses a labor intensive process of straining that helps make it more tart and creamy than regular yogurt. It tastes great, and nutritionists love it. It contains nearly three times the protein as regular yogurt, and probiotics are good for stomach health. Even though it can cost twice as much as the leading regular yogurt, people are scooping up the Greek stuff like it's ice cream.  

Chobani, Stonyfield's Oikos, Voskos and Fage claim to make Greek yogurt the old-fashioned, traditional way. Big name regular yogurt companies like Yoplait have their own version too.  They say their high protein yogurt is Greek too.  But the lawsuit claims no way. The real story is on the back of the label.

Chobani is the number one selling Greek yogurt.  Purists claim before fruit is added it should only have two ingredients: pasteurized milk and active cultures.  

Yoplait Greek Fat Free is named in the lawsuit.  On the ingredients label of the yogurt, active cultures are listed, but the amount is less than half of the five listed on the Chobani Greek yogurt. Pasteurized milk is listed, as is corn starch, lemon juice, and milk protein concentrate.  

"Gives it the protein but it gives it none of the true probiotic benefit that live, active Greek yogurt cultures will add to the yogurt," said Marks.

The lawsuit claims that calling Yoplait Greek yogurt "Greek" is "deceptive." It goes further by saying the milk protein means it's not even really yogurt.  General Mills, who owns Yoplait, told the I-Team Greek yogurt only means that it's "thick and high in protein."   

"Reading the labels will tell the whole story of whether you're getting a true, quality, traditionally made product or something that is brought to you by the hand of a food scientist or a food chemist taking short cuts," said Marks.

The FDA says it has no standard right now for what "Greek Yogurt" is. At this point they consider it a marketing term. The federal lawsuit against Yoplait is seeking class action status.  The court has not ruled.

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