Dannon stands by claims, challenges lawsuit

by Jeff Gelski
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The Dannon Co. plans to defend its probiotic claims and challenge a lawsuit filed against the company Jan. 23 in a U.S. district court in Los Angeles. The lawsuit filed by Patricia Wiener claims Dannon’s advertising for its Activia and DanActive products are "false, misleading and reasonably likely to deceive the public."

White Plains, N.Y.-based Dannon responded, "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. Dannon’s advertising has always been and will continue to be absolutely truthful, and Dannon will vigorously challenge the lawsuit."

The lawsuit contends Dannon spent more than $100 million in advertising to claim its products are clinically and scientifically proven to provide consumers with health benefits that other yogurt products cannot meet. Dannon thus was able to justify a 30% price premium, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks, among other things, the restitution of Dannon’s revenues to plaintiffs and the proposed class members and the ordering of Dannon to run a corrective advertising campaign.

The lawsuit contends Dannon does not have the scientific evidence to claim in its advertising that eating Activia daily for two weeks is proven clinically to naturally regulate the digestive system. Of the 30 studies that Dannon uses to substantiate its claims for DanActive, only four of the studies looked at whether DanActive could prevent illness, according to the lawsuit.

"None of these four studies provided by Dannon show that DanActive prevents illness in healthy adults," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also mentioned a June 2006 report on probiotics published by the American Academy for Microbiology that calls into question the amount of evidence showing the effectiveness of probiotics in humans.

Dannon responded, "The filed complaint does not contain any support for the broad generalization made in the lawsuit. The one publication cited in the lawsuit does not disprove Dannon’s scientific substantiation for its proven product benefits."

The lawsuit also claims Dannon’s trademark names for its probiotic strains are misleading. Bifidus Regularis (the trademark name for Bifidobacterium animalis strain DN-173-010) is in Activia. L. casai Immunitas (the trademark name for L. casei strain DN-114 001) is in DanActive.

"These names sound scientific and imply that the products deliver the specific claimed health benefit," according to the lawsuit.

Dannon provides scientific evidence for its probiotic claims at its www.activia.us.com and www.danactive.com web sites.

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