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General Mills agrees to $8.5m settlement over YoPlus health claims

By Mark Astley, 06-Feb-2013

Related topics: Manufacturers, Dairy Health Check, Yogurt and Desserts

General Mills has agreed to pay $8.5m to settle a lawsuit that alleged it launched a national marketing campaign for its Yoplait YoPlus probiotic yogurt products in the US based on misleading digestive health claims.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in January 2010, General Mills advertised YoPlus as “a yogurt that helps naturally regulate ‘digestive health’ in a manner that other commercially available and less expensive yogurts do not.”

Under the settlement, General Mills has agreed to create a settlement fund worth $8.5m.

Despite reaching an agreement with the plaintiff, General Mills is standing by its marketing campaign and its claims concerning the digestive health benefits of YoPlus.

A spokesperson for General Mills told “We stand behind our products and the accuracy of our label – and we disagreed on the merit of the case. But we agreed to resolve the matter to avoid further litigation.”

“False and deceptive” health claims

The plaintiff, Jeremiah Johnson, alleged that the digestive health claims made by General Mills relating to its YoPlus yogurt were “false and deceptive.”

“Beginning in or about July 2007, Defendants General Mills, Inc. and Yoplait USA, Inc. (‘General Mills’) undertook a nationwide marketing campaign for the YoPlus yogurt product. General Mills’ advertising distinguished YoPlus as a yogurt that helps naturally regulate ‘digestive health’ in a manner that other commercially available and less expensive yogurts do not,” said the settlement filing.

General Mills has vehemently denied claims made by the Plaintiff concerning its marketing of YoPlus probiotic yogurt products - which it no longer sells in the US.

“Excellent result” for consumers

Consumers who purchased YoPlus in the US between 26 July 2007 and 5 July 2012 are eligible to claim $4 from the $8.5m settlement fund for each unit of YoPlus they bought.

Any unclaimed amount of the settlement fund will not revert back to General Mills, the settlement added. Instead it will be distributed to the Mayo Clinic - to support its nationwide efforts to provide public education on nutrition and gastrointestinal health – and the National Consumer Law Center

According to the plaintiff, the settlement represents an “excellent result” for consumers.

“The recovery represents an excellent result for the Class. Moreover, although the Settlement does not contemplate injunctive relief, General Mills has discontinued this product,” said the court filing.