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Goddard Announces $21 Million Deceptive Advertising Settlement with Dannon

(Phoenix, Ariz. - Dec. 15, 2010) Attorney General Terry Goddard, along with the Attorneys General of 38 other states and the Federal Trade Commission, filed settlements today with The Dannon Company, Inc. (“Dannon”) to settle allegations of deceptive advertising over purported health benefits of its products.

Under the multistate settlement, Dannon will pay $21 million to the Attorneys General to resolve allegations that Dannon made unsubstantiated and unlawful marketing claims concerning its Activia yogurt and DanActive dairy drinks. The $21 million payment is the largest payment to date in a multistate settlement with a food producer.

The lawsuit filed today alleges that Dannon made unlawful claims in advertising, marketing, packaging and selling the Activia and DanActive products, including claims that were not substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

Activia yogurt products are sold in Arizona and throughout the United States. Dannon represented that Activia helped to regulate a person’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 made 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. 

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 complaints about unsubstantiated health or advertising claims or any consumer matter should contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at 602-542-5763; in Tucson at 520-628-6504; or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at 1-800-352-8431.

For more information, contact Janey Pearl at (602) 542-8019.