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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit organization based here that promotes preventive medicine, is preparing to file two major lawsuits either today or tomorrow, with the goal of putting a stop to multimillion-dollar national advertising campaigns by five of the country's biggest food companies, as well as several major dairy trade groups, that claim milk and other dairy products can help people lose weight.
When contacted by Progressive Grocer, the PCRM's senior public relations officer, Howard White, declined to name the planned suits' targets, but explained what the litigation was about. "We are filing two lawsuits on behalf a Virginia woman who, relying on the dairy weight loss ads, gained weight instead. One is a class action suit on behalf of Virginia consumers (and by extension in the United States), the other is for damages (she's asking for less than $300 as recompense for dairy foods she bought in order to follow the dairy diet recommendations)." The plaintiff was identified in a PCRM press release as Catherine Holmes.
The group plans to announce further details of the suit at a press conference tomorrow morning at the National Press Club in Washington. In addition to Holmes, T. Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University; PCRM senior nutrition scientist Amy Joy Lanou; PCRM senior legal counsel Dan Kinburn; and PCRM executive director and chief legal counsel Mindy Kursban will be present. The group will additionally reveal a new counter-dairy advertising campaign at the conference.
According to White, the PCRM has already filed two petitions over the dairy industry's weight-loss claims, one with the Federal Trade Commission in April and the other with the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month. "Litigation was necessary in this case because we felt the dairy industry was unlikely to back down without treatment in the courts," he added.
Other legal battles against the food industry that the PCRM has taken on include the representation of Delray Beach, Fla. resident Jody Gorran in his ongoing lawsuit against Atkins Nutritionals. Gorran claims that going on the Atkins low-carb diet for two and a half years caused him to develop heart disease and high cholesterol.
Founded in 1985, PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.