Chobani must stop ads claiming rival Dannon contains bug spray

Dannon has won the yogurt ad war with Chobani.

A federal judge ruled on Friday that New York-based Chobani must stop running ads that claim Dannon’s rival light Greek yogurt brand contains bug spray and chlorine and is unsafe to eat.

Dannon sent a cease-and-desist letter to Chobani after it launched ads attacking Dannon Light and Fit. Chobani then turned around and sued Dannon in US District Court in Albany over the attempt to block its advertising.

In the ads, Chobani claims its Chobani Simply 100 is the only 100-calorie Greek yogurt with zero preservatives.

Chobani’s commercials show a young woman lounging by a pool chair when she reaches for a cup of Dannon yogurt. A voice-over intones: “Dannon Light & Fit Greek actually uses artificial sweeteners like sucralose. Sucralose? Why? That stuff has chlorine added to it!”

The woman scrunches up her face in disgust, ditches the Dannon in the trash and picks up a container of Chobani Simply 100 Greek Yogurt sitting on a table to her right.

“Now, there’s Chobani Simply 100,” the voice over continues. “It’s the only 100 calorie light yogurt sweetened naturally.”

Judge David Hurd ruled that Chobani is free to continue to spread its message about the value of selecting natural ingredients. It is not, however, free to disseminate the false message that sucralose renders Dannon’s products unsafe to consume.

Sucralose, the artificial ingredient at the center of this dispute, is a “zero-calorie, non-nutritive sweetener” that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption since 1999, Hurd wrote in his decision.

“Pool chlorine, on the other hand, is a colloquial term for calcium hypochlorite, a powerful bleach and disinfectant that is harmful if added to food or ingested.

But “this substance is distinct both chemically and practically from the chlorine atoms found in sucralose,” the judge wrote.

Chobani’s “other challenged messages — that its products are ‘good’ or that Dannon’s artificial ingredients are ‘bad stuff’— are merely puffery about the superiority of its own natural products,” he added.

After winning a preliminary injunction to stop the ads, Paris-based food giant Dannon is now seeking damages.

Chobani didn’t immediately have a response to the decision.

This story originally appeared in the New York Post.