Dairy Council's Misleading And Deceptive
Campaign On Weight Loss Will End
A national advertising campaign that associates dairy products
with weight loss will be curtailed because research does not support
the claim, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The advertisements, conceived by the promotional arm of the dairy
industry and overseen by the Agriculture Department, feature slogans
like "Milk your diet. Lose weight!" and suggest that three servings
of dairy products a day can help people be slim.
The effort includes a campaign called "Body by Milk" that is
aimed at teenagers. It features Alex Rodriguez, the third baseman
for the New York Yankees, and Carrie Underwood, an "American Idol"
The assertion that there is a link between weight loss and dairy
consumption has long been contested by the Physicians Committee
for Responsible Medicine, an advocacy and research group that
promotes a diet free of animal products.
The group petitioned the F.T.C. in 2005 to argue that the advertisements
were misleading. In a May 3 letter to the group, Lydia Parnes,
director of the agency's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said Agriculture
Department representatives and milk producers and processors had
agreed to change the advertisements and related marketing materials
"until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence
of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss."
As of Thursday, the National Dairy Council still had a section
of its Web site devoted to the weight-loss claim. But the site,
along with some of the advertisements, will be changed, said Greg
Miller, who is executive vice president of the council and has
a doctorate in nutrition.
"Like any other marketing campaign, after time you want to freshen
them up and give the consumers what's new," Mr. Miller said. "That's
what's happening here."
Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the group that brought the matter
to the F.T.C., said it would continue to press the dairy industry
on other claims, which include the assertion that calcium helps
prevent bone fractures in older women.
"I think people will start 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," Dr. Barnard said.
Mr. Miller said most medical professionals agreed that dairy contributed
to overall bone health and could help people maintain a healthy
"I think there's a minority of people out there that just have
very loud voices," he said. "This is a vegan group that doesn't
want anyone to eat dairy."
Dairy products were upgraded in the 2005 revision of federal
dietary guidelines, which recommended that people consume more
low-fat milk and dairy products. An advisory committee that helped
set the guidelines cited a report, partly financed by the dairy
industry, which found that low-fat dairy products did not necessarily
add to weight gain and that dairy products have certain nutrients
that can help consumers meet dietary recommendations. The guidelines
increased the amount of low-fat or fat-free dairy products to
three cups a day, up from two cups.
The dairy council is allowed to continue to use wording from
those guidelines that says adults and children should not avoid
milk and milk products because of concerns that they may lead
to weight gain, the letter from the F.T.C. said.
Marion Nestle, a professor
of nutrition at New York University, said the agreement to modify
the advertisements was groundbreaking. In her book, "What to Eat,"
she argued that lobbying by the $50 billion dairy industry could
sometimes cloud policy on nutrition. Though Ms. Nestle said she
ate dairy products regularly and did not dispute their nutritional
value, she said people could have a healthy diet without them.
"Those ads were ridiculously misleading," she said.