It's that time of year — time for me to unload all of my frustrations on so-called public interest groups, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) (aka the food police). It was an article in the New York Times on a class-action suit Dannon settled over its Activia yogurt and DanActive yogurt drinks that prompted my interest in writing about all of the bunk often publicized by mainstream media and public interest groups.
The lawsuit against Dannon reportedly alleged that the claims the company made about its probiotics were not substantiated, and that the word “probiotic” in and of itself does not provide enough information to determine whether the product will provide the health benefits claimed on the label.
Dannon settled its case for $35 million to avoid the distraction and expense of litigation. The company also wanted to resume its focus on making products that provide proven health benefits, which havebeen substantiated by years of scientific research and published in peer-reviewed journals.
I don't honestly know whether CSPI had its hands in the lawsuit filed against Dannon, but I wouldn't be surprised. The question is, what can the food industry do to counter so many of the false and inaccurate claims that organizations such as CSPI make?
As one commentary in the online news site Scoop writes, “Jacobson (executive direcor, CSPI), to put it mildly, is guilty of utter disregard for the truth and scientific facts, frequently exaggerating figures and claims to advance CSPI's own agenda.”
And as Robert Schoffner, food and wine editor of Washingtonian magazine puts it: “There's a political point of view here, an economic view based on the idea that people are children and have to be protected by Big Brother or Big Nanny from the awful free-market predators…. That's what drives these people — a desire for control of other people's lives.”
Organizations, such as The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition of restaurants, food companies and consumers working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices from public interests groups such as CSPI. But is the message truly reaching the public?
“I think that we should tell people the facts and give them options,” says Walter Willett, Ph.D., chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, in the Los Angeles Times.
I fully agree. No baker wants to go through the financial drain and backlash that Dannon suffered.