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Dannon Sued For Making Healthy Probiotic Claims

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, January 24, 2008 5:24 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Defective and Dangrous Products, Bad Faith Claims


Dannon sued for false advertising about probiotics


You’ve seen the Dannon ads for Activia yogurt. One woman promises another if she has Activia for two weeks her digestive system- bloating, gas, indigestion, whatever is implied- will be improved.

Dannon claims the high priced premium yogurt has probiotics which when consumed regularly will boost your immune system and regulate digestive health.

A proposed class action lawsuit was filed Wednesday accusing the company of massive false advertising.  

Trish Weiner filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles.  She claims Dannon’s is a “massive and comprehensive” false ad campaign for DanActive, Activia and Activia Light yogurts.

Weiner would like to have a class-action status so everyone who bought Dannon products could receive refunds totaling $300 million. 

The complaint says Dannon’s own studies don’t even support its claim that Activia, Activia Lite and DanActive had “clinically” and “scientifically”  “proven” health benefits over other yogurts.  

Dannon funded a study by leading microbiologists in 2006 that concluded it says “at present the quality of probiotics available to consumers is unreliable,”  though there needs to be more study.  

“Probiotic Microbes: The Scientific Basis” was prepared by the American Academy of Microbiology.  The report concludes that the “the efficacy of most formulations is low, and the effects that have been measured have been difficult to differentiate from placebo effects.”

A Dannon Co. spokesman says the company stands by the claims of its products and has “clinical studies which support them.”

“All of Dannon’s claims for Activia and DanActive are completely supported by peer-reviewed science and are in accordance with all laws and regulations,'’ said the statement. “Dannon’s advertising has always been and will continue to be absolutely truthful, and Dannon will vigorously challenge this lawsuit.”

The Activia branding seems to be boosting sales.  According to Brandweek magazine sales are healthy growing 48 percent to $181.3 million since the product was introduced in 2006. DanActive sales rose 185 percent to $60 million.

The Activia products cost about one-third more than other yogurt and the advertising has has seen an infusion too of more than $100 million. The lawsuit claims that ad money has gone to convey deceptive messages to U.S. consumers.

The key to the pro-biotic business is the package that says the yogurt contains “bifidus regularis” that regulates the body’s digestive system which Dannon claims on drink DanActive, “has been clinically proven to help naturally strengthen the body’s defenses when consumer daily,” says the complaint.

A Dannon Web site talks about the clinical studies concerning the “friendly bacteria,” bifidus regularis.It challenges consumers to “Eat ACTIVIA every day for two weeks. If it doesn’t help naturally regulate your digestive system and taste great, we’ll refund your purchase price up to $12.00."

Probiotics deliver ‘good” or “friendly” bacteria to the human digestive tract. There are an estimated 400 different types of bacteria living there in a sort of checks and balances. When “bad” or harmful unfriendly bacteria flourish, we can be impacted with sickness or a general rundown condition.

Consumers are urged to buy probiotics in health food stores and it’s recommended you consume them to replace the killing of “good” or healthy bacteria when taking antibiotics.

Researchers in Sweden found people taking probiotics had fewer sick days from work. Nutrition Research finds that yogurt is a good vehicle to transfer good bacteria to humans. Researchers find that some probiotics studied have been found to be effective, but many have not been studied.

Gregor Reid of the Canadian Research and Development Center for Probiotics tells the San Francisco Chronicle that Dannon has done a lot of research on bifidus regularis and the benefits are clear.

While probiotics are generally thought of as healthful, the question is whether adding them to food translates to good health.

Looking for healthy yogurt?  Consumers should look for a calcium percentage higher than grams of sugar according to Eleanor Taylor of Feedingthekids.com

Dannon is a unit of French food giant Danone.

Jayne Goldstein of Mager Goldstein is representing the plaintiff.   #



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