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General Mills sued over probiotic claims

By Shane Starling , 28-Sep-2009
Last updated on 29-Sep-2009 at 17:16 GMT

The legal firm that mounted the class action against Dannon that resulted in a $35m out-of-court settlement, is one of several law firms that have mounted a similar action against another probiotic product, this time General Mills’ Yo-Plus.

The action was lodged in a Florida court in March by Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudmin & Robbins, and four other legal firms, and alleges General Mills made misleading and unsubstantiated gut health claims about Yo-Plus using “unfair and deceptive practises”.

The action is lodged on behalf of all Floridian citizens that may have consumed Yo-Plus.

It says that General Mills’ claims were, “immoral, unethical, unscrupulous and substantially injurious to consumers”, and in breach of both its contract with consumers and its warranties.

It seeks to make General Mills engage in a corrective advertising campaign; return to consumers all monies earned from sale of the products; punitive damages and court costs.

The claims in question suggest Yo-Plus could regulate digestive health benefits that other similar products could not.

While General Mills said it had clinical backing for the claims, the action asserts that it in fact, it does not, and was therefore, “reasonably likely to mislead the public”.

General Mills said it would not comment on ongoing litigation.

“General Mills nationwide advertising campaign has been extensive and comprehensive, spending millions of dollars to convey these messages to consumers (…)” the action asserts.

Yo-Plus contains the Bifidobacterium lactis strain BB12 and is one of the best-selling probiotic products in the US, behind Dannon’s spoonable yougurt, Activia, and drinkable one-shot yogurt, DanAactive.

The action notes that the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) had found in 2008 that General Mills’ Yo-Plus claims were not backed by the available evidence.

It states that not only do studies conducted by General Mills fail to support the claims, some of them, “flatly contradict” them.

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