A doctors’ group can’t sue dairy companies that claim milk promotes weight loss under Virginia consumer protection laws, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled June 19.
One print ad for the “Milk Your Diet” angle of the ubiquitous “Got Milk?” campaign featured a svelte Brooke Shields sporting a milk moustache beside revised text that claims studies show that nutrients in skim or low-fact milk “can help maintain a healthy weight.”
A report in the LA Times also noted those studies were funded by the dairy industry and that last year “the Federal Trade Commission forced two national dairy organizations to stop claiming that dairy consumption can cause weight loss.”
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine took up the cause in Virginia, suing dairy producers and trade associations under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and under Virginia’s false advertising statute. The doctors’ group wanted a permanent injunction preventing future weight-loss claims in ads and a “corrective market campaign.”
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema dismissed the suit, saying there is no private cause of action for injunctive relief under either statute.
In a 15-page unpublished opinion in Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine v. General Mills Inc., Judge Paul Niemeyer affirmed Brinkema’s dismissal of the doctors’ suit.
By Deborah Elkins