U.S. government calls for end to dairy weight loss ads

WASHINGTON Fri May 11, 2007 9:24pm EDT

A Holstein cow is seen at the Sunny Dene Ranch in Mabton, Washington, in this December, 27, 2003 file photo. U.S. dairy producers will have to stop pitching the idea that drinking more milk spurs weight loss, the Federal Trade Commission told a physician's advocacy group in a letter made public on Friday. REUTERS/Jeff T. Green/Files

A Holstein cow is seen at the Sunny Dene Ranch in Mabton, Washington, in this December, 27, 2003 file photo. U.S. dairy producers will have to stop pitching the idea that drinking more milk spurs weight loss, the Federal Trade Commission told a physician's advocacy group in a letter made public on Friday.

Credit: Reuters/Jeff T. Green/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. dairy producers will have to stop pitching the idea that drinking more milk spurs weight loss, the Federal Trade Commission told a physician's advocacy group in a letter made public on Friday.

Calling it a "victory for consumers", the Physicians for Responsible Medicine said two national dairy advertising campaigns overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will stop claiming that dairy products cause weight loss because "such claims are not supported by existing scientific research."

Greg Miller, senior vice president for the National Dairy Council, said the industry stands "behind our weight loss messages and the science supporting those messages."

But Miller said that at the request of USDA, the industry would shift its messages "to emphasize the role of dairy in weight maintenance" instead of weight loss.

USDA could not be immediately reached for comment on the FTC letter.

The doctors' organization cited a May 3 letter from FTC, which told the group that following discussions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it would "discontinue all advertising and other marketing activities involving weight loss claims until further research provides stronger more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss."

In its April 2005 petition to the FTC, the advocacy group charged that the dairy industry was misleading the public with its high profile, celebrity-filled marketing campaign that suggested consuming milk and other dairy products helped consumers lose weight.

"Milk and cheese are more likely to pack on pounds than help people slim down," said Dan Kinburn, PCRM's general counsel. "This case calls into question other advertising claims made by the industry, especially the notion that milk builds strong bones. Evidence shows it does nothing of the kind."

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