Dannon Activia is a yogurt that claims to help regulate your digestive system. The difference between Dannon and most other yogurts is Dannon contains probiotic bacteria. Probiotic bacteria are live bacteria that are supposed to not only help regulate your digestion, but also help improve your immune system. Probiotic bacteria can be found naturally in your intestinal tract, but scientists say that as you age, good bacteria such as probiotic will decrease. Dannon has claimed their yogurt will help replenish the good bacterium to your system, thus improving your health.
These yogurts with probiotic bacteria have helped boost Dannon’s sales. It is expected that in 2008, Activia and DanActive (another yogurt by Dannon with a different bacteria that claims to “help strengthen your body’s defense”) will produce about 40% of the company’s yogurt business. In its first year of release, Dannon grossed approximately $100 million from this yogurt line.
However, a lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles federal court is saying Dannon fooled consumers into paying more for Activia based on the false advertising campaign. The lawsuit seeks to reimburse consumers as well as have Dannon correct their advertising campaign. While the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization says probiotics have a beneficial health effect, it must be backed up by research. The Food and Drug Administration does not get involved in such claims, but rather looks for labels in which a product claims to equate the probiotic products with disease-curing drugs.
The lawsuit against Dannon says that even their own studies failed to prove that Activia has health benefits superior to other brands of yogurt. Yet, Dannon has stated these yogurts were proven “clinically” and “scientifically” to have health benefits. In the lawsuit, it is mentioned that Dannon charges about 30% more for the Activia and DanActive yogurt lines than other yogurts. The lawsuit also contains scientific reports showing that there is no conclusive evidence proving that probiotic bacteria can benefit adults. One such report was released by the American Academy of Microbiology, which states, “At present, the quality of probiotics available to consumers in food products around the world is unreliable.”
Trish Weiner filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles on January 23, saying that the “only effect that it had on me was that it tasted poorly.” Weiner’s lawyer, Tim Blood, with the San Diego firm Coughlin Stoia, said, “Companies are getting more and more aggressive in their advertising claims. They end up playing off people’s general fears and concerns.” He claims Weiner suffered an “economic injury” and believes if settled, the lawsuit could amount to as much as $300 million dollars.
You can read dannon’s response to the lawsuit here.