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Dannon to pay $21M, drop some yogurt health claims

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dannon Co. Inc. has agreed pay $21 million and drop some health claims for its Activia yogurt and DanActive dairy drink in settlements with state and federal regulators.

The food company has claimed that beneficial bacteria in its Activia yogurt helps relieve irregularity and that its DanActive drink helps people avoid catching colds or the flu.

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday there is not enough evidence to back those claims. It announced that it has reached a settlement with the company that prohibits it from making such claims unless they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The attorneys general from 39 states also announced Wednesday that they’ve reached a $21 million settlement with the food maker over the marketing claims. This case, led by attorney generals in Oregon and Tennessee, represents the largest attorney general consumer protection multi-state settlement ever reached with a food producer.

The two lead states will receive $1.06 million under the agreement and the remainder of the money will be divided among 38 other states.

“Consumers want, and are entitled to accurate information when it comes to their health,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. “Companies like Dannon shouldn’t exaggerate the strength of scientific support for their products.”

Dannon, which is owned by Groupe Danone of France, said it will more clearly convey that Activia’s benefits on irregularity are confirmed only for three servings a day of the product. It also agrees that DanActive will not be marketed as a cold or flu remedy, which Dannon maintains it has never done.

“Millions of people firmly believe in, benefit from and enjoy these products, and Dannon will continue to research, educate and communicate about the benefits of probiotics on the digestive and immune systems,” the company said in a statement.

Dannon settled a class-action lawsuit earlier this year over similiar claims from consumers that it inapproporiately advertised the benefits of the two products. Less than $1 million of a $35 million fund established in the case was paid out.