TRENTON –New Jersey has entered into a multi-state settlement agreement with The Dannon Company, Inc. under which Dannon will pay the states a total of $21 million to resolve allegations it made unsubstantiated and deceptive marketing claims regarding its Activia yogurt and DanActive drink products, Attorney General Paula T. Dow announced today.
Under terms of the settlement – the largest payout to date in a multi-state settlement involving a food producer — New Jersey will receive $425,000. A total of 39 states and the Federal Trade Commission worked cooperatively on the Dannon investigation, which focused on claims made by Dannon about the purported health benefits of eating Activia and drinking DanActive. The FTC has entered into a separate settlement agreement with Dannon regarding the same claims.
Among other things, New Jersey and the other states allege that Dannon has misleadingly claimed in its marketing of Activia yogurt that a single serving per day for two weeks improves intestinal transit time. In fact, the states’ investigation found, the majority of studies show that it requires significantly more Activia – three servings per day for two weeks – to achieve digestive benefits.
Dannon also claimed in marketing DanActive that drinking the beverage would provide certain “immunity” benefits, including prevention of cold and flu. The states alleged that such claims were deceptive, and that Dannon lacked adequate substantiation to make them.
In the case of both Activia and DanActive, Dannon made its claims of health benefits based largely on the presence of one ingredient — a bacterial strain with purported probiotic benefits. The strain in Activia was trademarked under the name Bifidus Regularis. The strain in DanActive was trademarked under the name L. casei Immunitas.
A lawsuit filed by New Jersey today along with the Dannon settlement agreement contends that the company made claims in its advertising, marketing, packaging and selling of Activia and DanActive that were not substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
Under the settlement, Dannon is now limited in the representations it can make regarding Activia and DanActive. Specifically, Dannon cannot claim the two products help prevent, treat, cure or mitigate disease. In addition, 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.
Under the settlement agreement, Dannon admits no wrongdoing.
Along with New Jersey, states participating in the settlement include: 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, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.
Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells, of the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, represented New Jersey in the Dannon matter.
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