PCRM’s Complaint Halts Misleading Dairy Advertisements
Two national dairy advertising campaigns overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will stop claiming that dairy products cause weight loss, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced in early May. The decision, which comes in response to a 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 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. Available research does not support the claim.
“It is important to recognize that the dairy industry, which used to have a mom-and-pop image, is a huge commercial entity that will exaggerate to sell its products,” said PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. The news of this consumer victory was covered by many major media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, and The Today Show.
The dairy industry’s weight-loss campaign was based largely on three small studies conducted by Michael Zemel, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee whose funding came from dairy industry sources and who patented the dairy-weight-loss claim. Out of 27 randomized, controlled research trials investigating the effects of dairy products on body weight, Dr. Zemel’s were the only ones showing a link between dairy consumption and weight loss.
The dairy industry has banked on consumers not taking an overly close look at its health claims. A review by PCRM nutritionist Amy Lanou, Ph.D., published in the March 2005 issue of Pediatrics, showed that there is little scientific evidence to support the idea that drinking milk helps children build strong bones. Researchers who hoped that milk would help prevent hip fractures later in life found no such evidence after an 18-year investigation as part of the Nurses’ Health Study. Also, yet another study has linked milk to prostate cancer: A new study in the International Journal of Cancer found that as consumption of dairy products or overall dietary calcium intake increased, risk for prostate cancer increased. In a survey of 29,133 men, those who consumed the most dietary calcium (greater than 2,000 milligrams per day) had a 63 percent greater risk, compared with those consuming less than 1,000 milligrams per day.