So I went away to spend Christmas with my family. While eating breakfast one day, I noticed this tub of pouring yoghurt on the table was boasting about the number of scientific studies done on the yoghurt, which was odd enough by itself, but combining that with the fact that there weren’t really any claims whatsoever on the package really piqued my interest.
Surely, if they’d done scientific studies and found any sort of health benefit, they would be boasting about those even louder…
So we spent 5 minutes looking up about the yoghurt. According to Wikipedia, they have actually been ‘done’ for false advertising in the past, which seems like it might have something to do with why there are no real health benefits claimed on the packages today:
In its marketing for Activia, Danone claimed that Bifidobacterium animalis relieves irregularity. In December 2010, The Dannon Company settled allegations of false advertising, without admitting a violation of law. In the settlement, Dannon agreed to stop advertising that Activia yogurt improves motility, unless the ad conveys that three servings must be eaten per day to obtain these benefits. Dannon agreed to pay US$21 million to 39 states that had coordinated investigations with the FTC. In response to a similar lawsuit in Canada, Danone agreed to settle the suit by paying compensation and modifying its advertising.
By motility, I believe the article is referring to digestive motility, rather than animal motility.
So the yoghurt is a probiotic, so it says in small letters just above the ingredients (but much louder on the US product website). Quickly looking up probiotics on wikipedia yields this cheerful line:
According to one definition offered by an expert committee convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, probiotics are live microorganisms that may confer a health benefit on the host. Alternative expert review indicates there is insufficient scientific evidence for supplemental probiotics having a benefit.
I kind of have some respect for the Australian version of this product now; they are not claiming health benefits despite it being quite acceptable to and even assumed by most people that this kind of product would have some, and despite everything else at the breakfast table making those misleading incredibly-vague-but-in-a-way-imperceptible-to-most-plebs claims implying how you’re going to be godlike eating their products and an overweight cancerous sloth if you don’t.