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The truth about Chobani's brazen, shade-throwing yogurt ads

Adriana Velez is Food Editor for SheKnows. She spent her formative years in Brooklyn, which pretty much explains everything about her. She now lives somewhere else and has discovered life after kale and kombucha. She's written for Civil ...

The Greek yogurt wars are on, and they're getting nasty

A new Chobani Simply 100 yogurt ad throws some serious shade at competitor Dannon Fit & Lite Greek yogurt, all over its use of a not-so-natural sweetener. Another ad attacking Yoplait's Greek-style yogurt has landed the company a lawsuit from General Mills.

In Chobani's ad, a woman lounging by a pool picks up a cup of the Dannon yogurt and examines the ingredients list. A voice-over says, "Dannon Light & Fit Greek actually uses artificial sweeteners like sucralose. Sucralose — why? That stuff has chlorine in it." And the woman chucks it in a trash bin and picks up a cup of Chobani.

Naturally Dannon is miffed and has sent a cease and desist order to Chobani, claiming its ad is misleading. But is it? And what is sucralose, anyway?

More: 10 Recipes to get more Greek yogurt in your life

Sucralose is often sold under the brand name Splenda. You've probably seen its little yellow packets. And it's true that the sweetener contains some chlorine. So do a lot of foods we eat every day, most notably salt. The FDA has determined that the levels of chlorine in sucralose are safe for human consumption.

That said, the chlorine in sucralose is bonded to carbon, creating a compound called chlorocarbon. And that's the ingredient that might cause concern. Chlorocarbon is a preservative used to kill microorganisms, and physician and biochemist Dr. James Bowen tells the LiveStrong blog that they are "never nutritionally compatible with our metabolic processes and are wholly incompatible with normal human metabolic functioning."

In a similar Chobani ad, Yoplait's use of the preservative potassium sorbate is singled out. "Potassium sorbate. Really?" the voice-over goes. "That stuff's used to kill bugs!" In food it's commonly used to inhibit the growth of mold. It does make an appearance in some gardening insecticides, but again, it's there to fight mold. General Mills' lawsuit against Chobani — yeah, they're not too happy about this ad — points out that potassium sorbate has been proven ineffective in killing bugs.

More: Why you should make your own yogurt

Before you too toss your Dannon or Yoplait yogurt in favor of the Chobani, though, consider this: Chobani's Simply 100 yogurt isn't so natural and harmless either. According to Fooducate.com, it contains stevia and monk fruit extract — both derived from natural sources, but the very unnatural process of that extraction involves chemicals.

More: Superfood: Unique ways to use Greek yogurt

Bottom line is, any low-calorie yogurt that tastes supersweet is working some sort of chemical wizardry.

If you're looking to slim down in the new year the natural way, here's your best strategy: Train your palate to prefer less-sweet food. It can be done. You can start by cutting your artificially sweetened yogurt with plain, unsweetened yogurt. Better yet, start with unsweetened yogurt, and add a tiny bit of honey or fresh fruit. Little by little, you'll notice all the tantalizing flavors you've been missing because all that loud sweetness covers them up. Your world will become more colorful.

At any rate, when you see one food company disparaging another food company over its ingredients, it pays to dig a little deeper and examine all the facts. Chobani's point about being an informed consumer is correct, but you really shouldn't be getting all your information from one very biased source.

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