USDA and Dairy Industry Halt Misleading Weight-Loss Ads After Physicians Group Complains to Federal Trade Commission
Cheese and Milk Actually Likely to Cause Weight Gain, Doctors Say
WASHINGTON—In a victory for consumers, two national dairy advertising campaigns overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will stop claiming that dairy products cause weight loss because such claims are not supported by existing scientific research, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced in a letter to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). The decision, which comes in response to an FTC petition filed by PCRM, will end misleading claims made in the “Milk Your Diet. Lose Weight” and “3-A-Day. Burn More Fat, Lose Weight” promotions.
In the FTC petition, PCRM charged that the dairy industry has used false and misleading advertising in its multimillion-dollar, celebrity-filled marketing campaign suggesting that consuming milk and other dairy products causes weight loss. In response, the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices met with USDA staff and representatives of the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board and the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, who agreed to discontinue all advertising and other marketing activities involving weight-loss claims pending further research into the issue. The decision also applies to affiliated entities, including Dairy Management Inc.
“Milk and cheese are more likely to pack on pounds than help people slim down,” said Dan Kinburn, PCRM’s general counsel. “This case calls into question other advertising claims made by the industry, especially the notion that milk builds strong bones. Evidence shows it does nothing of the kind.”
The dairy industry’s weight-loss campaign was based largely on small studies conducted by Michael Zemel, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee whose funding came from dairy industry sources. Independent research, including a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has found that dairy product consumption either has little or no effect on weight loss or actually increases body weight.
A recent study in the International Journal of Cancer found a disturbing link between dairy consumption and increased prostate cancer risk, something previously identified in two Harvard studies.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.