Danone has agreed to settle with US regulators investigating claims the French food giant made when advertising probiotic products in the market.

The US Federal Trade Commission said Danone had agreed to drop “exaggerated” health claims on Activia yoghurt and DanActive dairy drinks.

The FTC said yesterday (15 December) that Danone’s US arm, The Dannon Co., had agreed to stop claiming that one daily serving of Activia relieves “irregularity” and that DanActive helps people avoid catching colds or flu.

The regulator had accused Dannon of using “deceptive” advertising and not having “substantiation” for its claims. The dairy group’s assertion that its claims on Activia and DanActive were clinically proven were “false”, the FTC had alleged.

“These types of misleading claims are enough to give consumers indigestion,” said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. “Consumers want, and are entitled to, accurate information when it comes to their health. Companies like Dannon shouldn’t exaggerate the strength of scientific support for their products.”

The settlement between Danone and the FTC will see the food maker pay US$21m to 39 US states that had launched their own inquiries into the advertising of the products.

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Under the settlement, Dannon cannot claim its products reduce the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu without approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Dannon will only be able to claim Activia yoghurt will relieve temporary irregularity or help with slow intestinal time if the ad conveys that a consumer will need to eat three servings of the yoghurt each day.

Commenting on the settlement, Dannon said it was “pleased” to announce an agreement that “resolves all concerns” and allows the business to “advertise the core benefits of its products – that Activia helps to regulate the digestive system and DanActive helps to support the immune system”.

Dannon said it would “more clearly convey Activia’s beneficial effects on irregularity and transit time are confirmed on three servings a day”.

However, the company said that, although it had agreed not to market DanActive as a cold or flu remedy, it had “never” done so.

Dannon added: “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 essence of Dannon’s advertising remains unchanged and will continue to be truthful and in compliance with all laws and regulations.”