Head Healthy

WhiteWave Foods is the manufacturer of various dairy products under the Horizon Organic brand, a well-known product line with familiar red packaging. Six of the company’s Horizon Organic products are sold with a label that boasts added “DHA Omega-3” and that the product “Supports Brain Health.”

These claims caught the eye of Dan Zeiger, a California consumer who purchased the products in question. He started to do some research.

Convinced that the added DHA omega-3 did not promote brain health, Zeiger filed a class action against WhiteWave in early August, alleging violations of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act and the Unfair Competition Law stemming from WhiteWave’s “false, misleading and deceptive advertising.”

Science!

According to Zeiger’s complaint, he had retained “one of the world’s foremost experts in brain chemistry” to assess the Horizon Organic products.

The scientific basis of his allegations is a complicated skein involving DHA, one of several omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet, and other fatty acids that the body uses to manufacture it. The plaintiff alleged that because these other acids are already plentifully available in the human body and diet, there is no shortage of DHA in the human system, and no need for DHA supplements at all. The expert also holds that even if DHA supplements were necessary for brain health, the amount that the Horizon products would provide was negligible given the levels that already are present in the body.

Zeiger also cites randomized controlled studies regarding DHA that he claims demonstrate that the fatty acid doesn’t have any effect on health at all, as well as proceedings before the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration that cast their own doubts on DHA’s supposed benefits.

The Takeaway

Zeiger is championing a class of consumers across nine states who have purchased Horizon Organic milk since Nov. 25, 2015. He seeks restitution and disgorgement of revenues based on WhiteWave’s false advertising, an injunction that will halt the current advertisements and an order for a corrective ad campaign to counter the misrepresentations WhiteWave made in the past. Advertisers need to be particularly careful regarding substantiation of health and wellness claims.