Dannon sued over probiotic claims

A proposed class action lawsuit filed in California in January accuses Dannon Co. of a false advertising campaign promoting the benefits of yogurt with probiotic bacteria. The suit claims Dannon's own studies failed to prove that Activia, Activia Lite and DanActive were "clinically" and "scientifically" "proven" to have health benefits that other yogurts did not.

The suit charges the claims merely convince consumers to pay 30 percent more for yogurt brands with no additional health benefits.

Activia claims its bifidus regularis bacteria "helps naturally regulate your digestive system." DanActive, with L. casei immunitas, claims it "helps strengthen your body's defenses.”

The products have been huge successes for the U.S. unit of France's Groupe Danone. Activia, launched in the U.S. in 2006, and DanActive, which debuted in 2007, are expected to account for 40 percent or more of the company's U.S. yogurt business in 2008, Juan Carlo Dalto, Dannon chief executive, told Reuters in November.

Other companies also are promoting the benefits of probiotics, and not just in yogurts.

The lawsuit demands that Dannon engage in "a corrective advertising campaign" and pay reimbursements to all U.S. purchasers of those three brands.

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