The jury is still out on how beneficial it is to eat foods fortified with beneficial bacteria.
The Dannon Company
The Federal Trade Commission says Dannon has exaggerated health claims about its Activia yogurt products.
The Federal Trade Commission says Dannon has exaggerated health claims about its Activia yogurt products. The Dannon Company
But the open questions about the health effects of probiotics haven't stopped food company Dannon from aggressively promoting the healing power of two of its probiotic-laden yogurt products.
Sure, scientists have found evidence that friendly bacteria in some foods can aid digestion and help the immune system. But Dannon, it seems, went a little too far. The Federal Trade Commission said today the company has agreed to pay the government $21 million to settle claims that its ads for Activa and DanActive yogurts were misleading.
The problem, according to the FTC, lies in several print, television and internet advertisements for the yogurts. The ads for Activia suggest it can conquer constipation in just two weeks. In other ads, a bottle of DanActive is portrayed as a way to reduce the likelihood of young, frisky boys getting a cold or flu.
"These types of misleading claims are enough to give consumers indigestion," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a statement. "Companies like Dannon shouldn’t exaggerate the strength of scientific support for their products."
The company, though, stands by its products' abilities to keep the bowels moving brisky, and the immune system in robust shape. And spokesman Michael Neuwirth says the company won't be withdrawing the claims. Instead, the company will now have to let consumers know that any statements about benefits for digestion or the immune system are based on European studies involving three servings a day of yogurt.
So in other words, even Dannon's studies show that it may take quite a lot of probiotic food to make a significant health difference. And last time we checked, Americans weren't much in the habit of eating yogurt for breakfast, lunch and dinner.