DALLAS – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and 38 other attorneys general today reached an agreement with Dannon Co., Inc. that resolves the states’ investigation into the yogurt manufacturer’s misleading and unlawful claims about the characteristics of its products.
According to court documents filed by the states, Dannon’s advertising, packaging and selling improperly overstated the health benefits of its Activia yogurts and DanActive dairy drinks. The defendant made statements that were not substantiated by reliable scientific evidence. Dannon also claimed that Activia could help prevent and treat diseases. Under state and federal law, manufacturers can only advertise the curative effects of approved drugs. They cannot associate those claims with food products. Dannon’s misrepresentations were repeatedly used in television commercials featuring actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
For example, Dannon claimed that Activia helped to regulate human digestive systems because it contained a bacterial strain with purported health benefits. Dannon trademarked this ingredient under the name Bifidus Regularis. Dannon also claimed Activia had antimicrobial benefits that could affect colon cancer. Those claims were improper because Dannon could not lawfully market the curative properties of unapproved drugs.
The attorneys general also disputed Dannon’s claims that ingesting one serving of Activia per day for two weeks improved intestinal transit time. In fact, most studies demonstrate a person benefits only when he or she consumes three servings per day for two weeks.
Under today’s injunction, Dannon must disclose that three servings of Activia per day – not one – are required for the advertised benefit of improved intestinal transit time. The states’ agreement prohibits Dannon from making future claims about its products unless those claims have been substantiated by legitimate scientific research.
According to state investigators, Dannon also improperly claimed that its DanActive dairy drinks could help prevent colds, flus and diarrhea in children. Both claims were unlawful because DanActive has not been approved by the federal government as a drug. As with Activia, Dannon promoted DanActive as a product enriched with a probiotic bacterial strain that could improve the digestive system. Dannon trademarked this strain under the name L. casei Immunitas. The states’ injunction also prohibits Dannon from advertising that its products cure, treat, prevent or mitigate diseases.
Under the agreed final judgment filed today, Dannon agreed to pay $21 million to resolve the states’ investigation. Texas’ share will be $911,000. A previous class action case handled consumer restitution.
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