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MADISON - In a coordinated filing, the Attorney General of the State of Wisconsin, 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 Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia, and the State of Hawaii, Office of Consumer Protection (collectively “the Attorneys General”) filed settlements today with The Dannon Company, Inc. (“Dannon”). The Federal Trade Commission also 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. Wisconsin was among the nine states who lead the investigation into Dannon's unlawful marketing practices.
The lawsuit filed today by the Attorney General 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 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.
“Wisconsin law makes false and deceptive marketing unlawful,” Van Hollen said. “Today's settlement with Dannon protects Wisconsin consumers from aggressive marketing that deceptively uses scientific data and makes unsubstantiated health-related claims.”
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.
Assistant Attorney General Lara Sutherlin handled the case for Attorney General J.B.VanHollen's Consumer Protection Division. Wisconsin was one of the members of the Executive Committee that lead the multistate investigation.
A copy of the complaint and the Consent Judgment are available at: