General Mills has announced that the company has changed its Yoplait yogurt cup design to prevent skunks from becoming trapped or killed in the discarded containers. The company said that after 10 months of research it had developed a new package that took into account the concerns expressed by animal-rights activists who had informed General Mills of the skunk problem.
Besides inscribing the cups with the message, "Protect Wildlife Crush Before Disposal," the new containers are manufactured from polypropylene, which cracks easily. Once crushed and cracked, the container is skunk-proof.
General Mills said that the design changes will make it more difficult for a skunk to get its head into a yogurt container and easier for the skunk to remove it. The modifications also include a new seal flange that does not turn back inside the container; the removal of stacking lugs, which makes it easier for the skunk to shake off the cup; and a flange added to the bottom of the cup, making it easier for the skunk to push the cup off with typical grooming behavior.
However, two days after the announcement the Animal Protection Institute refuted General Mills' claims saying that the Yoplait container's lip, as well as it narrow tapered shape, remain virtually unchanged from the original design.
According to API, the lip acts as a locking device on animals, who become trapped while trying to get the yogurt left at the bottom of discarded containers. Skunks, with short legs, lack the dexterity to reach behind their ears to push off the container, and often die as a result.
API also challenges General Mills' assertion that the company incorporated the concerns of animal advocates in redesigning the container. In a May 1998 letter to the yogurt maker, API veterinary consultant Dr. Elizabeth Colleran wrote, "I cannot conclude that (the new design) will eliminate, or even reduce, the incidence of wildlife entrapment."
The group also said that evidence suggests that number of animals killed may be in the thousands, and not "between two and 14" as General Mills claimed.