Dannon Sued Over Probiotic Yogurt Claims

A proposed class action lawsuit was filed yesterday in California against Dannon over the company’s unsubstantiated claims that its Activia, Activia Lite and DanActive “probiotic” yogurts were healthier than regular yogurt. A Dannon spokesperson told Reuters he knew nothing about the lawsuit, and that Dannon stood by its studies. But as the lawsuit points out, the studies Dannon knew about did not support any claims that the special yogurt was more beneficial than regular yogurt. So what are you trying to tell us, Dannon? Or are you just stalling for time while your lawyers get that settlement proposal ready?

The lawsuit claims Dannon has spent “far more than $100 million” to convey deceptive messages to U.S. consumers while charging 30 percent more that other yogurt products.

The lawsuit also cited scientific reports showing, counter to Dannon’s advertising, that there was no conclusive evidence that the bacteria prevented illness or was beneficial to healthy adults—and that Dannon knew this.

It seeks reimbursement for all U.S. purchasers of Activia, Activia Lite and DanActive, and demands that Dannon engage in “a corrective advertising campaign.”

“Dannon sued over “probiotic” bacteria claims” [Reuters]

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  1. Dustbunny says:

    I’m eating Lucerne’s pomegranate & acai yogurt while reading this. Yummmmy.

    That is all.

  2. Walrii says:

    All I ate today was half a bag of french fries and a few baby carrots (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

    And I’m still regular!

  3. I’ve bought a couple things of those…they also don’t put the expiration dates on each of the containers…just the stupid box (that gets thrown away when I eat the first thing)…

    I would like some class-action cash though…

  4. headon says:

    How much is the lawyer paying the lady for being the complainant.
    Yeah they deserve to be sued for BSing everyone but it’s the race for the cash that did it not her upset stomach.

  5. Jen8 says:

    Tasty yogurt but so overpriced an over hyped. They even admit on their site’s FAQs that they made up the name Bifardus Regularus(tm) ! Love that they are getting sued.

  6. DMDDallas says:

    Heh, most people would freak out if you told them yogurt contains bacteria.

  7. chiieddy says:

    They do seem to keep my husband’s stinkage down, so different or not, I’ll take it. He can clear a stadium.

  8. Maurs says:

    I’ll just stick with these $.20 kroger brand yogurts, thank you very much.

  9. RottNDude says:

    Along the same lines, the commercial for Joint Juice [www.jointjuice.com] implies that drinking the stuff “hydrates your joints”. Total BS.

  10. Half Beast says:

    I’ll admit, these things make a fine alternative to traditional antacids. Yogurt has long been the negotiator in the power struggle between my stomach and tomato-heavy foods.

  11. Captaffy says:

    I just love how this yoghurt tastes.

  12. Floobtronics says:

    My wife & I crack up at the probiotic foodstuff commercials, going on about active cultures, etc. Somehow, I don’t think the stuff would sell as well if it were marketed as “now with live bacteria!”

  13. mgyqmb says:

    I thought this was fortified with bifidis regularis! That sounds healthy.

  14. forgottenpassword says:

    I snagged one once from the employee lunchroom fridge one a while back.

    WHy are the containers so freekin’ tiny! HeLL! There’s more in a jello cup!

    And I dont trust half the crap that so called “health foods” claim on their packages. The way i see it… its just lies to get you to think its healthy & to buy the product.

  15. pureobscure says:

    As an asthmatic that takes an inhaled corticosteroid, this yogurt definitely helps control oral thrush, so I buy it and will continue to buy it.

  16. benko29 says:

    I’ll +1 the tastiness argument for this yogurt. I, frankly, could care less about the probiotic culture stuff. I just love how Activia tastes. I could eat just plain white Activia and be satisfied.

  17. clevershark says:

    Strawberry Activia tastes great and it has a nice texture, but all in all I prefer Kefir in the morning.

  18. Major-General says:

    If you start hunting down the studies that support their claims, you will find out regular yogurt is as good or better.

  19. topgun says:

    If I ran out and bought some do you think I could get in on the lawsuit? What you figure the settlement will be? About $3 in coupons for the consumer and about $30,000,000 for the attorneys?

  20. Womblebug says:

    I have Crohn’s and my gastroenterologist has recommended that I eat some probiotic yogurt daily. Either he’s full of gastroenterologist business, or they’re something to it if you’ve got gut issues. It’s not hurting me, hard to tell if there’s a tremendous benefit as how I feel varies from day to day, but the cherry Yoplait Yo Plus is certainly yummy.

  21. HYDRAULICMONSTER says:

    Why exactly is this yogurt being advertised as “probiotic”?

    I thought regular old run-of-the-mill yogurt was already probiotic. That’s what yogurt is, milk that’s been fermented with certain bacteria cultures, which also aid the digestive system.

  22. MickeyMoo says:

    One annoying thing about all the mainstream brand yogurts (Yoplait and Activia especially) is that the use HFCS instead of sugar – and I’d really like to find a brand that doesn’t – any suggestions?

  23. xfortrenox says:

    I’ve been using Danactive regularly for months now. I swear by the stuff. Will start to feel like I’m coming down with something and the next day its gone. Have not had a full blown sick day since. Its done wonders for my PTO at work!! Oh, and this is coming from someone who used to get sick nearly every other month.

  24. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @HYDRAULICMONSTER: I think some of the schmancy triple-whipped extra-flavored pudding things advertised as “yogurt” may not actually be probiotic, or at least not very much so, once all the processing and flavoring has happened. Maybe that’s the distinction? “Hey, guys, this actually IS yogurt!”

  25. IrisMR says:

    Heh. And my mom’s been going “Get some activia, it’s the only one that helps your digestion!”

    I did get some activia, and now you guys are saying their claims are all lies??

    “But as the lawsuit points out, the studies Dannon knew about did not support any claims that the special yogurt was more beneficial than regular yogurt.”

    Oh. Yes. Guess that IS what you guys say… Liars. I’m going back to Yoplait. They’re cheaper.

  26. Anitra says:

    The first time I ever saw an add for this yogurt with “active cultures”, I wondered how it was different from regular old yogurt (not the whipped or pudding-that-we-claim-is-yogurt kinds). The perceived benefits just allow them to charge more for smaller containers.

    I’ll stick with my regular old Dannon Light N’Fit or store brand. I get more yogurt (that tastes good to me) for less money and the same number of calories.

  27. IconoclasticFlow says:

    I saw this on the news last night; I had already more or less determined that the stuff wasn’t helping (my digestive system is quirky), but since it tasted fine (I prefer Yoplait’s version) I hadn’t really said anything. Then I found out how much it cost. Since my GF does the shopping, and this has been my first experience eating yogurt, I never knew. Suffice it to say we will be switching yogurts.

  28. kimsama says:

    Right on, this stuff isn’t actually proven to be more beneficial than any other cultured food. Just get yourself some healthy yogurt (one without aspartame, preferably organic — hell, organic yogurt is cheaper than the Dannon Activia stuff) and you’ll be golden.

    Also, fun fact, kimchi and sauerkraut have plenty of lactic acid bacteria.

  29. @ROTTNDUDE: that Joint Juice does indeed have a peculiar marketing campaign. It does contain a “daily dose” of glucosamine which is often used as a treatment for osteoarthritis, but has been shown to be completely ineffective to treat the knee. Makes me wonder why half the commercial is an animation of a man’s knee being “lubricated”…

  30. rockergal says:

    I don’t understand the fuss. My great grandma “makes” yogurt with that bacteria stuff. This type of yogurt is pretty standard in Europe. I remember my mom buying it when I was a little.

  31. snoop-blog says:

    i will sell my bacteria for waaaaaay cheaper!

  32. bohemian says:

    @MickeyMoo: Dannon Naturals has sugar instead of corn syrup. I get the vanilla flavor when it isn’t sold out. I’m obviously not the only person who likes it. It is also pretty cheap $2.99 for the big tub.

  33. bohemian says:

    The real issue with this whole scam Dannon was running is that they were claiming this stuff was some super duper special formula you can only get from them.

    It is just active/live culture yogurt. Go to the organic section of a supermarket and get yogurt there. It will be much cheaper and most if not all will state they are live culture and what strains.

    They are charging a premium by misinforming the unwashed masses.

  34. emona says:

    I’m a freak for Wallaby organic yogurt. I could eat the lemon flavor for all three meals. I’m got a screwy stomach, but it’s never made me feel sick at all. Higher in calories than most aspertime diet crap, but it fills you up more and is sooo gooood.

    And look! It contains Bifidus!

  35. NotATool says:

    @MickeyMoo: Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit and sugar if you really need it. I got tired of all the HFCS in yogurt so I tried this and it tastes good. You don’t need the sugar.

  36. NotATool says:

    How are Dannon’s claims about Activa substantially different from all the wild claims made by the herbal/supplement industry?

  37. rewinditback says:

    I’ve been Bamboozled! i want my monies back!!!!

  38. NotATool says:

    …and how is their claim different from late-night TV infomercials?

  39. Juliekins says:

    I haven’t tried Activia, but I really love Yoplait’s Yo-Plus. As far as I can tell, it appears to be their answer to Activia. It’s the closest thing I’ve found here to the yogurt I had at my friend’s house in Europe, which was friggin awesome. (It was whole milk yogurt too, which I’m sure assisted in the awesomeness.) Still, if you guys say the yogurt in the hippie section is just as good, then I’ll try that next time. Yo-Plus is pricey.

  40. Juliekins says:

    Here’s a pretty good CSPI article about a selection of probiotic products and the varying levels of bullshit in the claims they make on their labels.

  41. Mr. Gunn says:

    Compared to the half-gelatin, aspartame-flavored crap you find in most stores, I’m sure it’s an improvement. Compared to actual cultured yogurt made with whole milk, like Brown Cow, for example, it’s nothing special.

    Eat real food.

  42. purkinje says:

    I never really got the point of the UltraMegaProbiotic thing. Regular Dannon & Yoplait (and a lot of store brands) already have “live and active” cultures. It’s cheap if you buy the 16-oz tubs. Or for like $10 you can buy a little yogurt maker and just make your own.

  43. chai_tea says:

    @MickeyMoo:

    My first choice is always Stonyfield Farm yogurt. Even their low-fat
    and fat-free versions are yummy. Here’s what they say about sweeteners:

    “What types of sweeteners do you add to your products?
    *
    We add only naturally milled, organic sugar. Almost half of the sugar
    listed in our nutritional legends is not added sugar, but sugar that
    occurs naturally in our milk and fruit ingredients. We add less sugar
    per ounce than other leading yogurt makers.”

  44. deadlizard says:

    It’s not just the HFCS, it’s the hormones and antibiotics they
    inject on the dairy cows. Talk about a product that used to be healthy
    and now is as bad for you as lard.

  45. The strawberry is the best I’ve had so far. I’m not a huge yogurt fan, but i like this stuff — if it makes my guts healthy — FANTASTIC. If not, it’s still plenty yum.

  46. TWSS says:

    @chiieddy: Really? Because I will pay CASH MONEY for something that tames the wild air biscuits.

    I tried those charcoal filter underpants, but they were too bulky under my skinny jeans.

  47. NotATool says:

    @NotATool: Got it…”ancient chinese secret” = OK. False scientific studies = Not OK

  48. bunnymen says:

    @chai_tea: I used to buy that stuff, but it’s really hard to justify paying more than a dollar (more than 75 cents, really) per cup. I’m back to Old Home now.

  49. sodypop says:

    @rockergal: This is call Kefir. I make my own and it’s great for your stomach. Lifeway is a fairly new company that sells the real stuff and Dannon and other companies are trying to jump on this. Kefir has been around for ages.
    If anyone want some live, real culture grains you can ask me or you can get them from several people over the internet. Do not buy the powder, you want the live grains.

  50. edwardso says:

    The Activa and the yo-plus have added fiber, which helps regulate your digestive system. While the probiotics may or may not have benefit, the fiber can increase regularity.

  51. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @edwardso: In that case, though, it’d probably be cheaper to buy some generic fiber supplement and mix a teaspoon into your yogurt.

  52. bluerooster says:

    I don’t care what they say or what it costs. It works for me. Sounds like someone here looking for a problem.

  53. MichaelNeuwirth says:

    I want to give you Dannon’s position about this lawsuit – I work for Dannon.

    All of Dannon’s claims for Activia and DanActive are completely supported by peer-reviewed science and are in accordance with all laws and regulations. Dannon’s advertising is and will continue to be absolutely truthful, and Dannon will vigorously challenge this lawsuit.

    If you’d like to hear both sides of this story check out the scientific evidence on our websites (www.danactive.com and http://www.activia.com) as well as a statement about the lawsuit at [www.dannon.com]

    Michael Neuwirth
    Sr. Director of Public Relations
    The Dannon Company

  54. stacy75 says:

    Hi Michael,

    Please consider removing the HFCS from Activia.

    Thanks!

  55. MichaelNeuwirth says:

    Stacy75,
    I’ll pass along your suggestion. fyi, my favorite, Activia Light (vanilla’s my preferred flavor), doesn’t have hfcs.
    Thanks.

  56. Mr. Gunn says:

    Hi, Michael. Are the health claims true for ANY yogurt with live cultures, or just Activia?

  57. totoro001 says:

    You can culture the stuff yourself, I had good success using one of those ridiculous little containers of vanilla DanActive. It’s not hard and the yogurt you get is nicer than the commercial stuff. Lucky Leaf Premium Pie filling (glass jar with lid) is just right for fruit flavoring. :-)

  58. chata says:

    Lifeway Kefir is the best and I don’t believe in anything but when I started drinking a cup a day of kefir for two weeks i felt great and did not have any digestion problems too bad the only place they sell it near me is at kroger and I do my grocery shopping at super target

  59. rblum says:

    Activia works for me. Just because someone files a lawsuit and attempts certification as a class action DOES NOT mean that they are correct. It is a shame that consumerist gave the unsubstantiated claims of a law suit such good billing. Perhaps the editor of Consumerist should eat a couple of cups of Activia and see what happens.

  60. MichaelNeuwirth says:

    Mr. Gunn, sorry for the very delayed reply to your question. The health benefit of Activia for regularity (if you have slow transit) is specific to Activia because Activia has a unique probiotic called Bifidus Regularis. The benefits of probiotics are ‘strain specific,’ which basically means that specific strains have specific benefits.