Dairy Under Fire
Pamela Accetta Smith
(847) 205-5660 ext. 4069
In June, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed two major lawsuits to stop a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign claiming that milk facilitates weight loss.
PCRM charges that three main dairy industry trade groups — the International Dairy Foods Association  (IDFA), National Dairy Council and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) — and international food giants Kraft Foods, General Mills and Dannon are misleading consumers with advertising that makes what it calls scientifically unsubstantiated claims about the effect of dairy products on weight loss. McNeill Nutritionals LLC, the maker of Lactaid, and Lifeway Foods, manufacturer of kefir, are also named as defendants.
PCRM filed the lawsuits on behalf of a Virginia resident who reportedly relied on these claims and actually gained weight while following recommendations contained in a series of dairy weight-loss ads.
“To stem declining sales and boost their bottom line, the dairy industry is duping overweight Americans into believing that milk and other dairy products are the magic bullet to weight control,” charges Dan Kinburn, PCRM senior legal counsel. “We are serving notice with these lawsuits that we will not continue to let these false claims go unchallenged.”
IDFA, the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) and DMI rolled out the industry’s “Healthy Weight with Dairy” campaign in October 2003 with national marketing efforts to tout new scientific research that suggests a link between dairy consumption and reduced body weight. As a result, the industry came together to build awareness of this growing body of research linking dairy and weight management.
The initiative, based on studies published in leading medical journals, reminds consumers that milk, cheese and yogurt can help in weight-loss efforts as part of a reduced-calorie, lowfat diet. The campaign also reminds consumers of the importance of exercise.
While research continues, preliminary findings suggest that calcium plays a role in the boy’s natural system for burning fat. The Healthy Weight with Dairy campaign communicates this research to consumers through major print advertising initiatives, national and regional public relations, and trade and health professional efforts.
The original vision was to make a major impact on how people view dairy products. Clearly, this Virginia resident is confused. Again, can we please stop blaming everyone else for our weight problems?
Also, in an ad that ran in USA Today in June, PCRM called on television psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw to fix the confusion caused by his appearance in milk mustache ads they say “falsely claim that milk helps weight loss.” Oh, Dr. Phil, what are you going to do?
I hope nothing.
As PCRM launched these latest misguided attacks, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) called on the group to stop misleading Americans and come clean about the real motive behind its efforts.
According to CCF, PCRM is an animal-rights group that opposes the sale of all food derived from animals. It has been reported that less than 5 percent of the PCRM’s members are physicians. It has also been reported that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has steered more than $1.3 million to the organization.