For Immediate Release
December 15, 2010
Senior Assistant Attorney General James T. Boffetti, Chief
Consumer Protection & Antitrust Bureau
In a coordinated filing, Attorney General Michael A. Delaney, the Attorneys General of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and the State of Hawaii, Office of Consumer Protection (collectively "the Attorneys General") filed settlements today with The Dannon Company, Inc. ("Dannon"). The settlement agreement with the State of New Hampshire was reached in connection with a lawsuit also filed today in Merrimack County Superior Court. Additionally, The Federal Trade Commission filed a settlement with Dannon today. The Attorneys General and the Federal Trade Commission worked in close cooperation on the investigation. Under the multistate settlement, Dannon will pay $21 million to the Attorneys General to settle allegations that Dannon made unsubstantiated and unlawful marketing claims concerning the covered products. The $21 million payment is the largest payment to date in a multistate settlement with a food producer.
The lawsuit filed today in Merrimack Superior Court by the Consumer Protection Bureau alleges that Dannon made unlawful claims in advertising, marketing, packaging, and selling Activia yogurts and DanActive dairy drinks, including claims that were not substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence at the time the claims were made.
Activia yogurt products are sold throughout the United States. Dannon represented that Activia helped to regulate one's digestive system based largely on the presence of one ingredient, a bacterial strain with purported probiotic benefits that Dannon trademarked under the name Bifidus Regularis. The Attorneys General alleged that Dannon represented that Activia improved intestinal transit time when consumed one serving per day for two weeks. However, the majority of studies demonstrated a benefit only for individuals who consumed three servings per day for two weeks. The Attorneys General also alleged that Dannon made other unsubstantiated and unlawful claims about Activia's benefits.
Dannon also produces and distributes DanActive dairy drinks. Dannon represented that DanActive provided consumers with "immunity" and cold and flu prevention benefits. The Attorneys General allege that those claims are unlawful and further, that Dannon lacked adequate substantiation to support those claims. As with Activia, Dannon's advertising and marketing emphasized that DanActive contains a probiotic bacterial strain. In DanActive's case, Dannon trademarked the bacterial strain under the fanciful name, L. casei Immunitas.
The settlement terms limit the claims that Dannon can make regarding the covered products. Specifically, Dannon may not represent that the covered products can prevent, treat, cure or mitigate disease. Additionally, Dannon must possess competent and reliable scientific evidence to support otherwise permissible claims about the health benefits, performance, efficacy or safety of its probiotic food products.
Consumers who have a complaint against any business may file a complaint electronically by logging onto www.doj.nh.gov/consumer and clicking on "Filing a Consumer Complaint". Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-468-4454 and request that a complaint form be mailed to them.
New Hampshire Department of Justice | 33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301