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The Dannon Company, Inc.; Analysis of Proposed Consent Order To Aid Public Comment

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AGENCY:

Federal Trade Commission.

ACTION:

Proposed consent agreement.

SUMMARY:

The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis To Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the draft complaint and the terms of the consent order—embodied in the consent agreement—that would settle these allegations.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before January 18, 2011.

ADDRESSES:

Interested parties are invited to submit written comments electronically or in paper form. Comments should refer to “Dannon, File No. 082 3158” to facilitate the organization of comments. Please note that your comment—including your name and your state—will be placed on the public record of this proceeding, including on the publicly accessible FTC Web site, at http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​publiccomments.shtm.

Because comments will be made public, they should not include any sensitive personal information, such as an individual's Social Security Number; date of birth; driver's license number or other state identification number, or foreign country equivalent; passport number; financial account number; or credit or debit card number. Comments also should not include any sensitive health information, such as medical records or other individually identifiable health information. In addition, comments should not include any “[t]rade secret or any commercial or financial information which is obtained from any person and which is privileged or confidential * * *.,” as provided in Section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and Commission Rule 4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2). Comments containing material for which confidential treatment is requested must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled “Confidential,” and must comply with FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).[1]

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Because paper mail addressed to the FTC is subject to delay due to heightened security screening, please consider submitting your comments in electronic form. Comments filed in electronic form should be submitted by using the following weblink: https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/​ftc/​dannon and following the instructions on the web-based form. To ensure that the Commission considers an electronic comment, you must file it on the web-based form at the weblink: https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/​ftc/​dannon. If this Notice appears at http://www.regulations.gov/​search/​index.jsp, you may also file an electronic comment through that Web site. The Commission will consider all comments that regulations.gov forwards to it. You may also visit the FTC Web site at http://www.ftc.gov/​ to read the Notice and the news release describing it.

A comment filed in paper form should include the “Dannon, File No. 082 3158” reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex D), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.

The Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”) and other laws the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. The Commission will consider all timely and responsive public comments that it receives, whether filed in paper or electronic form. Comments received will be available to the public on the FTC Web site, to the extent practicable, at http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​publiccomments.shtm. As a matter of discretion, the Commission makes every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments it receives before placing those comments on the FTC Web site. More information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, may be found in the FTC's privacy policy, at http://www.ftc.gov/​ftc/​privacy.shtm.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Richard Cleland (202-326-3088), Bureau of Consumer Protection, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and § 2.34 of the Commission Rules of Practice, 16 CFR 2.34, notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis To Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for December 15, 2010), on the World Wide Web, at http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​actions.shtm. A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room 130-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-2222.

Public comments are invited, and may be filed with the Commission in either paper or electronic form. All comments should be filed as prescribed in the ADDRESSES section above, and must be received on or before the date specified in the DATES section.

Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order To Aid Public Comment

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) has accepted, subject to final approval, an agreement containing a consent order from The Dannon Company, Inc. (“respondent”). The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for receipt of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received, and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make final the agreement's proposed order.

This matter involves the advertising and promotion of DanActive, a probiotic dairy drink, and Activia, a probiotic yogurt. According to the FTC complaint, respondent represented, in various advertisements, that drinking DanActive reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu. The complaint alleges that these claims are unsubstantiated and thus violate the FTC Act. The complaint also alleges that respondent represented that clinical studies prove that drinking DanActive reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu. The complaint alleges that these claims are false and thus violate the FTC Act.

With respect to Activia, the complaint alleges that respondent represented, in various advertisements, that eating one serving of Activia daily relieves temporary irregularity and helps with slow intestinal transit time. The complaint alleges that these claims are unsubstantiated and thus violate the FTC Act. The complaint also alleges that respondent represented that clinical studies prove that eating one serving of Activia daily relieves temporary irregularity and helps with slow intestinal transit time. The complaint alleges that these claims are false and thus violate the FTC Act.

The proposed consent order contains provisions designed to prevent respondent from engaging in similar acts or practices in the future. The order covers representations made in connection with the manufacturing, labeling, advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of any covered product, in or affecting commerce. The order defines a covered product as: (a) Any yogurt, including but not limited to, Activia yogurt; (b) any dairy drink; and (c) any food or drink not covered by the foregoing that contains a probiotic, including, but not limited to, DanActive.

Part I of the consent order is designed to address the complaint allegations concerning respondent's allegedly unsubstantiated representations that drinking DanActive reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu. Part I prohibits respondent from making representations that any covered product reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu unless the representation is specifically permitted in labeling for such product by regulations promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) pursuant to the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (“NLEA”). Under this provision, therefore, respondent cannot claim that a covered product reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu unless the FDA has issued a regulation authorizing the claim based on a finding that there is significant scientific agreement among experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate such claims, considering the totality of publicly available scientific evidence. As noted in the Commission's Enforcement Policy Statement on Food Advertising, “[t]he Commission regards the ‘significant scientific agreement’ standard, as set forth in the NLEA and FDA's regulations, to be the principal guide to Start Printed Page 80053what experts in the field of diet-disease relationships would consider reasonable substantiation for an unqualified health claim.” Enforcement Policy Statement on Food Advertising (1994), available at http://www.ftc.gov/​bcp/​policystmt/​ad-food.shtm. Thus, although the Enforcement Policy Statement does not say that the only way a food advertiser can adequately substantiate a disease risk-reduction claim is through FDA authorization, the consent order provision requiring FDA pre-approval before respondent makes a reduced cold or flu likelihood claim for its covered products in the future will facilitate compliance with and enforcement of the order and is reasonably related to the violations alleged.

Respondent may decide to make an advertising claim characterizing limited scientific evidence supporting the relationship between a covered product and a reduced likelihood of getting a cold or the flu. However, if the net impression of that advertising is that the covered product reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu, and not merely that there is limited scientific evidence supporting the claim, the advertisement would be covered under Part I. The Commission notes that its experience and research show that it is very difficult to adequately qualify a disease risk-reduction claim in advertising to indicate that the science supporting the claimed effect is limited. In other words, reasonable consumers may interpret an advertisement to mean that the product will reduce the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu, even if respondent includes language indicating that the science supporting the effect is limited in some way. However, if respondent possesses reliable empirical testing demonstrating that the net impression of an advertisement making a qualified claim for a covered product does not convey that it will reduce the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu, then that claim would be covered under Part IV of the order.

Although Part I requires FDA approval before respondent can make claims that a covered product reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu, the Commission does not intend Part I to limit respondent to using the precise language specified in an FDA-approved health claim. To the contrary, if the FDA has approved a claim that a covered product reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu, respondent may use a variety of words and images to communicate that claim in its advertising. Conversely, regardless of the particular words or images used, if the net impression of an advertisement is that a covered product reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu, then for the ad to comply with the order, the FDA must have authorized a health claim based on significant scientific agreement that such product provides such a benefit.

Part II of the consent order prohibits respondent from making representations that eating one serving of Activia yogurt daily relieves temporary irregularity and helps with slow intestinal transit time unless the representation is non-misleading and it conveys that eating three servings a day is required to obtain the benefit. Part II further provides, however, that the order does not prohibit respondent from representing that the benefit can be achieved from eating less than three servings a day if such claim is non-misleading and respondent possesses and relies upon competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates that such representation is true.

For purposes of Part II, competent and reliable scientific evidence means at least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical studies of the product, or of an essentially equivalent product, conducted by different researchers, independently of each other, that conform to acceptable designs and protocols and whose results, when considered in light of the entire body of relevant and reliable scientific evidence, are sufficient to substantiate that the representation is true. For purposes of the order, essentially equivalent product means a product that contains the identical ingredients, except for inactive ingredients (e.g., inactive binders, flavors, preservatives, colors, fillers, excipients), in the same form and dosage, and with the same route of administration (e.g., orally, sublingually), as the covered product; provided that the covered product may contain additional ingredients or other differences in formulation to affect taste, texture, or nutritional value (so long as the other differences do not change the form of the product or involve the ingredients from which the functional benefit is derived), if reliable scientific evidence generally accepted by experts in the field demonstrates that the amount of additional ingredients, combination of additional ingredients, and any other differences in formulation are unlikely to impede or inhibit the effectiveness of the ingredients in the essentially equivalent product.

Part III of the consent order prohibits respondent from making representations that any covered product other than Activia yogurt relieves temporary irregularity and helps with slow intestinal transit time unless the representation is non-misleading and respondent possesses and relies upon competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates that such representation is true. For purposes of Part III, competent and reliable scientific evidence means at least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical studies of the product, or of an essentially equivalent product, conducted by different researchers, independently of each other, that conform to acceptable designs and protocols and whose results, when considered in light of the entire body of relevant and reliable scientific evidence, are sufficient to substantiate that the representation is true.

Part IV of the consent order prohibits respondent from making representations, other than representations covered under Parts I through III, about the health benefits, performance, or efficacy of any covered product, unless the representation is non-misleading, and, at the time of making such representation, respondent possesses and relies upon competent and reliable scientific evidence that is sufficient in quality and quantity based on standards generally accepted in the relevant scientific fields, when considered in light of the entire body of relevant and reliable scientific evidence, to substantiate that the representation is true. For purposes of Part IV, competent and reliable scientific evidence means tests, analyses, research, studies, or other evidence that have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons, that are generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results.

Part V of the consent order prohibits respondent from misrepresenting the existence, contents, validity, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any test, study, or research, including but not limited to any misrepresentation that a covered product is clinically proven (1) to reduce the likelihood of getting a cold or flu, or (2) to relieve temporary irregularity or help with slow intestinal transit time.

Part VI of the consent order provides that nothing in the order shall prohibit respondent from making any representation for any product that is specifically permitted in labeling for such product by regulations promulgated by the FDA pursuant to the NLEA.

Parts VII, VIII, IX, and X of the consent order require respondent to keep copies of relevant advertisements and materials substantiating claims made in the advertisements; to provide copies of the order to its personnel; to notify the Commission of changes in Start Printed Page 80054corporate structure that might affect compliance obligations under the order; and to file compliance reports with the Commission. Part XI provides that the order will terminate after twenty (20) years, with certain exceptions.

The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order, and it is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify their terms in any way.

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By direction of the Commission.

Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

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Footnotes

1.  The comment must be accompanied by an explicit request for confidential treatment, including the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. The request will be granted or denied by the Commission's General Counsel, consistent with applicable law and the public interest. See FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).

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[FR Doc. 2010-31936 Filed 12-20-10; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6750-01-P