Kraft dropped in dairy lawsuit

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk

Against a backdrop of conflicting claims, a controversial pressure
group has dropped Kraft from a lawsuit over misleading advertising
after the firm agreed to update its consumer information.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an organization described as "not a legitimate health charity"​ by the Center for Consumer Freedom, began legal proceedings against Kraft, General Mills Dannon, McNeill Nutritionals, Lifeway Foods and three dairy organizations over a "deceptive"​ multimillion-dollar advertising campaign that claimed that milk could facilitate weight loss.

According to PCRM, Kraft has now confirmed that it has no plans to restart these ads. The pressure group says that Kraft is the only defendant to have entered into discussions with the organization.

The physicians group said the ads are based on unsubstantiated scientific evidence.

"We are serving notice with these lawsuits that we will not continue to let these false health claims go unchallenged,"​ said Dan Kinburn, PCRM senior legal counsel.

However, some remain highly skeptical over the PCRM's aims and objectives. The industry-supported Center for Consumer Freedom for example believes that the group is deliberately misleading consumers and has animal rights motivations.

"PCRM is an animal rights group that opposes the sale of all food derived from animals,"​ claimed the Center for Consumer Freedom in a recent press release.

The center goes on to claim that less than five percent of the group's members are physicians, and that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has already steered more than $1.3 million to PCRM.

"PCRM is made up of activists whose constant demands for a milk-free America are rooted in an animal-rights philosophy, not in concern for Americans' health,"​ said Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom.

"If PCRM is truly interested in truth-in-advertising, it should advertise itself as an animal-rights group that is '95-percent doctor- free.'"

But PCRM claims that the issue at hand is the weight-loss campaign, which is erroneous and based solely on two small-scale studies using questionable methodology. Indeed, a recent study carried out by scientists from Purdue University concluded that increased consumption of dairy calcium was not associated with reduced weight and fat mass, as had been suggested by previous results.

Milk consumption has increasingly been the focus of heated debate over its potential affect on consumer health. Evidence to support the putative link between consumption of milk products and ovarian cancer risk fro example, a possible correlation that was first reported in 1989, has been continually backed up and then refuted.

Similarly, Researchers from the US Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School recently suggested that while dietary calcium and skimmed milk are linked to weight gain, dairy fat is not.

The dairy industry has not had it easy in recent years. Products with added probiotics, cholesterol-lowering plant sterols, and vitamins account for all the sector's growth - sales of probiotic 'little bottles' grew by 52 per cent last year, while sales of plain and natural yogurts fell almost 2 per cent.

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