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Dannon Settles Attorney General Charges Of Deceptive Advertising Of Yogurt Products

CONTACT: Sarah London, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5479

December 15, 2010

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, thirty-eight other Attorneys General, and the Federal Trade Commission filed settlements today with The Dannon Company, Inc., regarding Dannon’s advertising of Activia and DanActive yogurt products. Under the multistate settlement, Dannon will change its marketing practices and pay $21 million to the Attorneys General to settle allegations that Dannon made unsubstantiated and unlawful marketing claims. The $21 million payment is the largest payment to date in a multistate settlement with a food producer. Vermont’s share of the settlement is $425,000.

“Dannon led consumers to believe that its Activia and DanActive products offered health benefits, but it lacked scientific evidence to support its claims,” said Attorney General Sorrell. “Companies can’t use scientific-sounding names and say certain products are good for us without having supportive scientific studies.”

Dannon represented that DanActive provided consumers with “immunity” and cold and flu prevention benefits. The Attorneys General alleged that those claims are unlawful because Dannon lacked adequate evidence to support them. Dannon’s advertising and marketing emphasized that DanActive contains a probiotic bacterial strain (live microorganisms that confer a health benefit on consumers), which Dannon trademarked under the fanciful name, L. casei Immunitas.

Dannon represented that Activia helped to regulate one’s digestive system. The representation was based largely on the presence of one ingredient, a bacterial strain with supposed probiotic benefits that Dannon trademarked under the name Bifidus Regularis. The Attorneys General alleged that Dannon represented that Activia improved intestinal transit time by consuming only one serving per day for two weeks. This representation was contrary to the conclusions of the majority of relevant studies. The Attorneys General also alleged that Dannon made other unsubstantiated and unlawful claims about Activia’s benefits.

The terms of the settlement filed today limit the advertising claims that Dannon can make in the future. Specifically, Dannon may not represent that its products can prevent, treat, cure or mitigate disease. Additionally, Dannon must possess competent and reliable scientific evidence to support claims about the health benefits, performance, efficacy or safety of its probiotic food products.

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