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Yogurt Maker Sued Over Health Claims

Lawsuit Accuses Dannon of Deceptive Ads for Probiotic Activia and DanActive; Nutritionists Weigh In
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 25, 2008 -- A class action lawsuit has been filed against the yogurt company Dannon over its marketing for yogurt products Activia and DanActive.

Activia is a yogurt marketed as being "clinically proven to help regulate the digestive system when eaten daily for two weeks," according to Activia's web site.

DanActive is a drink marketed as being "clinically proven to help strengthen the body's defense systems," states DanActive's web site.

Those claims focus on probiotics, which are healthy gut bacteria. There are many strains of probiotics; Activia and DanActive tout trademarked probiotic strains.

The lawsuit alleges a "massively deceptive" advertising campaign about those products' "clinically" and "scientifically" proven health benefits not available in other yogurts, states a news release from Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP, the San Diego law firm that filed the lawsuit earlier this week.

Dannon countered with its own news release, in which Dannon says it "vigorously challenges this lawsuit" and "proudly stands by the claims of its products and the clinical studies which support them."

Nutritionists' Views

"Does this make yogurt a bad thing? No. If people want to eat yogurt, by all means, they should because you're getting nutrients in yogurt that you're not going to get in a pill," Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells WebMD.

WebMD Director of Nutrition Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, agrees.

"Yogurt is good for you," Zelman says. She suggests that people who buy yogurt look for products that contain "live and active cultures or are enriched with additional healthy bacteria because there's sound science to document the healthfulness of those products."

But Bonci and Zelman say consumers shouldn't expect any yogurt to cure digestive disorders by itself.

Everybody probably won't find all their digestive problems solved by eating specialized yogurt products for two weeks, and "that may not be the yogurt's fault," Bonci says. "What else are they doing in their diet?

"I think if people are looking to maximize their digestive health, it's probably going to take more than a container of something that's in your refrigerator," she says.

Consuming enough fluids and fiber, being physically active, and controlling stress are also important for good digestive health, Bonci says.

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