Dannon Refutes Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Misleading Claims - January 24, 2008.
- In January 2008, a lawsuit was filed against Danone Activia because the individual felt that the health claims were not true and Activia was selling their product for more money than other types of yogurt due to these claims. The Danone company had to provide a response to the class-action lawsuit. It was made clear that orginally Danone would vigorously challenge the lawsuit, because the the company stated that all of their claims are supported by peer-reviewed science. Danone also claims that they have millions of satisfied customers, so this was another reason for the company to challenge the lawsuit. From reports, it did not sound like Danone made any sort of vigorous challenge to the lawsuit. The company decided to offer unhappy customers a refund for their purchases. The program was put into place in order to refund $100 at the most to customers who purchased Danone products, depending on how much yogurt they bought. In order to get a refund, customers were required to fill out a claim form. The company alloted a huge amount of money towards these claim forms. This would have been with the prediction that potentially some of the "millions of satisfied customers," were actually not that satisfied.
- The company also settled to change some of their advertising claims. Court documents enforced that the names of the probiotic cultures had to become more visible and the word immunity would be removed from their products. There is also some rewording that was decided to be changed on the product labels. On the DanActive labels, originally the label read; “a positive effect on your digestive tract’s immune system.” The new label will read, “interact with your digestive tract’s immune system.” This new label does not imply a direct effect, more simply an implied effect.
Performance Enhancement through Physical activity with Proper Nutrition
- When searching Activia on the internet, the first recommended page that appears is titled, “Digestive Health Matters,” with the link following underneath. Before the company even begins to describe their product, it is already implied to an individual that Danone and Activia care about digestive health.
- When entering the website and taking part in a quiz about digestive health, the outcomes lead you to performance benefits related to physical activity and proper nutrition without a focus on yogurt, or Activia. The quiz you can take is called, “How healthy is your digestive system?” There are four multiple choice questions followed by four true or false. Within these multiple choice questions each of them makes a statement about factors which improve digestive health, including; physical activity, adequate fluid intake, eating a meal slowly and amount of dietary fibre consumed. As soon as you answer one of the questions, an answer appears underneath, explaining what you should or could be doing differently. Therefore from these first four questions, you have received four different ways to improve your digestions with no mention of yogurt or Activia specifically. In the second set of four questions are true and false and do not deal with personal choices but rather facts. The first question deals with the importance of emptying your bowels when you feel the urge. It does not ask if you as an individual do so, but rather what you think is right. The second question again points to the importance of fibre and leads to the fact that foods high in fat and sugar do not help to speed up transit time (http://www.activia.ca/en/). Activia, compared to other yogurts was found to have a significantly higher amount of fat and sugar compared to other brands (14). From this statement, the consumers should look for yogurts with the lowest amount of fat and sugar and would not find themselves purchasing Activia. In particular, their new DESSERT line has an extremely high amount of sugar and fat per serving. The third question is the first one to actually target Activia specifically, asking if Activia is the only yogurt to have the patented BL Regularis. From reading the question, most people will notice the TM surrounding BL Regularis and know that it is a regulated company owned strain. Also within that statement, they include that this probiotic culture helps to balance friendly bacteria in the intestine. When reading the answer to the question, they add that this probiotic culture contributes to the balance of the bacteria in the digestive tract and this this culture is clinically proven to help colonic digestion by acting on transit time. As mentioned, the only studies done have been on a very small sample of elderly people. The last and forth question eludes to the importance of hydration and the negative health effects associated with caffeine and alcohol. Overall, this quiz only asked one question directly about Activia and it was to answer if people knew about the ‘exclusive’ probiotic culture found in Activia. It would be hard to miss this point, as before you enter the quiz the advertisement underneath states the name very clearly. Therefore, the only derived performance enhancement facts found from doing the quiz, would healthy lifestyle facts and nothing relating to the potential benefits of Activia.
- Also, within this section there are more performance enhancement techniques, none indicating Activia specifically, which are called the, “Seven Golden Rules for Good Digestion.” Probiotics or bacterial cultures were not listed under any of the sections in regards to the things to benefit digestive health. As far as a consumer would be concerned, all of these tips don’t lead to choosing Activia!
Performance benefits of Probiotics
- Most of the beneficial and performance enhancing effects of yogurt were not found to come from specific probiotic strains. Many general benefits have been recorded from the broad category of probiotics. Garg and Gupta (2009), reviewed that probiotics have an effect on many clinical conditions. Conditions that can positively benefit from probiotics include; infantile diarrhea, antibiotic associated diarrhea, enterocolitis, inflammatory bowel disease and urogenital infections (Garg & Gupta 2009). In specific lactobacillus has benefited from the most amount of research. As found in many other studies, the lactobacillus strain has been linked to improved intestinal immunity (Garg and Gupta 2009). Lactobacillus has shown to increase the number of IgA immunoglobulin secreting cells in the intestinal mucosa as well as stimulating the local release of interferons (Garg and Gupta 2009).
- In the future, more placebo controlled studies need to be put into place in order to validate the results of potential health benefits of probiotics (Garg & Gupta 2009). The dose and which probiotic agent is taken also needs to be considered carefully for optimal effectiveness.
- Along with probiotic cultures, yogurt is usually a source of protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and other minerals (Garg and Gupta 2009).
Fibre for Performance
- The effect of date fiber added to yogurt was investigated by Afifi et al. in 2009. The addition of date fiber was proposed to change some of the components of yogurt, including; texture, acidity, pH, colour, sensory properties and consumer acceptance (Afifi et al. 2009). It was found that the pH level increased and the texture became firmer and a darker appearance was reported. Subjects did not accept or favour yogurts that had been fortified with over 4% date fiber (Afifi et al. 2009). It has to be a careful mix for the manufactures in order to optimize the health benefits while maintaining or improving taste.
Performance Enhancement for All Ages
- As mentioned in the health claims section, all of the pictures and advertisements focus on young, beautiful, active women. If looking to improve performance, people would associate eating Activia with feeling great and looking more beautiful and youthful. On the FAQ page, it is suggested that Activia is good for the entire family, but when looking at the packaging and commercials, there is definitely not a child targeted audience. So a consumer looking to boost performance and energy for the whole family, would not be necessarily drawn to Activia.
- One of the most significant and important statements made in the lawsuit filed in 2008 was that there was not any scientific evidence which demonstrated conclusive evidence proving the benefit of the specific probiotic in adults. Most of the studies were done on elderly adults with very small sample sizes.
The Cost of Performance Enhancement
- The lawsuit stated that Dannon charges 30% more for both Activia and DanActive in compared to other yogurts because of the perceived health benefits.
Appropriate Snaking for Performance
- In order to try and make a change to the problem of obesity, Chapelot and Paven (2009) compared the satiety effect of eating yogurt and a chocolate bar. The subject group was young adults who were twenty years old and these snacks were chosen because they were usually consumed mid-after noon for a snack. Chapelot and Paven (2009), matched both the chocolate bar and the yogurt for energy provided and weight. The subjects were asked to fill out a survey rating a number of satiety factors including; ratings of hunger, appetite, desire to eat and perceived fullness at 20 min, the duration until the subject requested his dinner meal and the amount of energy intake at this dinner meal (Chapelot & Paven 2009). The results of this study indicated that the subjects experienced more satiety after yogurt than the chocolate bar, but not by much. The overall conclusion drawn by Chapelot & Paven (2009), induced a lower subjective motivation to eat after consuming yogurt compared to the chocolate bar.
- The study by Gill et al. (2000), demonstrated that mice were able to experience several indications of natural and acquired immunity when consuming either L. rhamnosus, L. acidophilus or B. lactis compared to the control population of mice. An enhanced phagocytic function was found in these mice ingesting the probiotic cultures. When these mice were administered one of the three probiotic cultures, the antibody responses to an oral or systemically administered immunogen was increased. Gill et al. (2000), noted that some strains of lactic acid bacteria are able to produce protection against cancers which have been artificially induced. It is also not clear whether the increase in immune function or phagocytic activity is maintained after the subjects (being humans or mice) stopped any ingestion of lactic acid bacteria.
Less stress about being uncomfortable
- Stressful events have been found to influence negative gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, flatulence and visceral pain. Visceral hypersensitivity can result after exposure to stress, which would increase the severity of discomfort (Diop et al. 2008). Probiotics aim to include bacteria that are normally part of the gut microflora, including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Diop et al. (2008), found that an improved lactose tolerance, increased amounts of intestinal peristalsis and accelerated bowel evacuation were associated with lactobacilli. Intestinal handling can be improved by an alteration to the volume or composition of the stool and gas, as well as with an increased mucosal secretion, which have been shown to work with the presence of probiotics (Diop et al. 2008). Gas production generally decreases with an increase in probiotics to the system because of colonic fermentation (Diop et al. 2008).