General Mills rapped over probiotic claims

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Probiotic, Nad

General Mills has been told to amend advertising for its functional yogurt product, Yoplait Yo-Plus, for making misleading claims.

In response to a challenge brought by Activia owner, Dannon, the voluntary advertising watchdog, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD), ruled against GM.

GM opposed some of the findings but stated it “supports the self-regulatory process, and will take NAD's recommendations into account in future advertising.”

Probiotic attribution

NAD took issue with a chart GM employed to compare the attributes of Yo-Plus with those of Activia, the US probiotic yogurt market leader.

The chart indicated both products were fortified with ‘probiotic culture’, but only Yo-Plus contained ‘prebiotic fiber’, ‘vitamin A’ and ‘vitamin D’.

NAD agreed with Dannon that the chart implied the probiotic content of the products was the same when it was not, as both the strains and the evidence used to back them was different.

Yo-Plait contained a strain called Bb12, or Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. Lactis.

Two claims in particular were deemed misleading:

  • “Once you digest the facts, you’ll see why Yo-Plus yogurt comes out on top.”
  • “Help naturally regulate digestive health with Yo-Plus Digestive Health.”

While both products used probiotic strains from the family Bifidobacteria, NAD deemed the strains were sufficiently different, and therefore challenged the Yo-Plait claims.

It said GM should “avoid communicating the unsupported message that the Yo-Plus product itself has been proven to help ‘regulate digestive health’ and expressly limit any digestive health benefit claims to the ingredient Bb12.”

In its favor, it said GM was free “to promote the fact that its product contains an ingredient (Bb12) which has been shown to help regulate digestive health and, unlike Activia, its product also contains fiber, vitamin A and vitamin D.”

Body of evidence

However it said GM should not attribute health benefits to these additional nutrients as they had not been proven in the particular matrix.

GM presented 17 studies in support of its claims, which NAD found supported the health benefits of Bb12 as an ingredient, but not as “a health-related product performance claim.”

This was principally because a 10-day benefit claim for the Yo-Plus product was not supported by the available evidence.

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