Ken Harrison 5:30 p.m., Sept. 4
El Centro Man Sues Dairy Over "Brain Health" Claim
El Centro resident Evereth Barrera has initiated a $5 million class action lawsuit against Dean Foods and its subsidiary WhiteWave Foods over what he claims is false advertising. Packaging of Horizon organic milk products features a prominent banner stating the presence of an additive called DHA Omega-3, which the cartons say “supports brain health.”
“The brain health representation also prominently appears on the top, the back and the left side panel of every milk carton,” says the complaint filed in San Diego federal district court.
Horizon’s website isn’t as direct as its packaging, saying instead that their milk is “enhanced with DHA Omega-3, a valuable nutrient that may help support the brain, heart and eyes.”
The complaint goes on to describe the compound in question. “DHA is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid typically found in cold water fish . . . [t]he DHA in defendants' milk products is not derived from fish oil. Instead, the DHA oil found in defendants' milk is an immature short-chain omega-3 fatty acid made from an extract of mutated and fermented algae.” It goes on to argue that Horizon’s DHA is not effective in the same manner as fish-based DHA, and that even if it was, the 32 milligrams found in a one-cup serving of milk would be far too little to be effective.
Plaintiff Barrera says he purchased the milk based on its packaging claims every week for a period of about two months. The milk is marketed as a premium product, selling around $5-6 for a half-gallon carton.
Horizon organic dairy, itself a subsidiary of WhiteWave Foods, just celebrated twenty years of operation, and boasts that it is “not only the top-selling organic milk brand in the US, but the top-selling milk brand, conventional or organic.”
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- What happens to un-purchased milk? — April 22, 1999