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Post date: December 4 2013

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlement With Maker Of Pediasure Sidekicks Supplement For Misleading Advertising

Abbott Laboratories’ Claims Of Offering Nutrition For Children’s Unique Needs, Making Kids More Active And More Successful In Sports Were Unsubstantiated

Schneiderman: False And Misleading Advertising Aimed At Our Children Is Unfair And May Be Dangerous To Their Health

NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has reached a settlement with Abbott Laboratories, Inc., for conducting a misleading advertising campaign for its Pediasure SideKicks products – Sidekicks and Sidekicks Clear. The products, introduced in 2010 and 2012, respectively, are sugary drinks with added vitamins and minerals. A probe by the Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds Bureau found that Abbotts’ “You Are What You Eat” ad campaign conveyed the misleading impression that children who consume SideKicks are more active and more energetic and perform better in sports than children who do not consume SideKicks. The investigation showed that Abbott failed to substantiate this claim and the statement in print and internet ads that SideKicks was “targeted nutrition” for children’s “unique needs.”

“False and misleading advertising aimed at our children and their parents is exploitative, illegal and may even contribute to the obesity crisis in our communities,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office will prosecute false claims by companies that seek to hawk their products to New York parents who are trying to provide the best for their kids.”

Under the agreement, Abbott, based in Abbott Park, Illinois, will cease its false advertising and pay a $25,000 penalty to New York State.

To introduce and promote its new SideKicks products, starting in 2010, Abbott embarked on a three-year advertising campaign in print media, on the internet and in television commercials. As part of it’s “You Are What You Eat” campaign, Abbott ran ads on national networks, syndicated television shows, cable television, Nnational Hispanic television programs, Spot TV, Health Guru, and Hulu. Print ads ran in various parents’ and women’s magazines. Ads and coupons were also posted on Abbott’s website.

In the ad, a girl who looks to be 10 to 12 years old drinks SideKicks at home before heading off to aher soccer game. At the game, the girl appears to be more energetic and to perform better than the other children, who seem sluggish and wear costumes depicting them as French fries and a chocolate frosted doughnut. The goalie, dressed as the doughnut, watches passively as the girl who drank SideKicks scores a goal. As the game progresses, the mother of the “French fries” child turns to the mother of the SideKicks child and states, “Does Tyler look a little slow? Maybe we should have skipped the drive-through.” The mother of the girl who drank SideKicks replies, “Well, kids are what they eat.” The advertisement concludes with the line, “New PediaSure extra kick of nutrition.” 

The Attorney General was alerted to Abbott’s advertising by advocates who complained that the ad misleadingly implied that pediatricians recommend Sidekicks for healthy, thriving children. 

As of the date of this agreement, Abbott has ceased using “You Are What You Eat” advertising and has agreed not to resume using the advertisements in any Abbott-sponsored media. Abbott has also agreed not to misrepresent the health or performance benefits of SideKicks products and not to represent that SideKicks is “targeted nutrition for your child’s unique needs.” 

With respect to its SideKicks Clear products, Abbott agreed not to display in its advertising and marketing, including on its internet websites, a label that either depicts fruit or contains the name of any kind of fruit in the product name. Federal law prohibits such displays for products that do not contain fruit or fruit juice unless the phrase “NO FRUIT JUICE” appears above the nutritional facts panel.

While both drinks contain vitamins and minerals, SideKicks is a sweetened chocolate-, vanilla-, or strawberry-flavored shake-type beverage. SideKicks Clear is a sweetened fruit-flavored drink. SideKicks Clear products have fruit names such as “Tropical Fruit” and “Wild Berry” and depict fruit such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries on their packaging but do not, in fact, contain any fruit or fruit juice.  

The matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Ellen J. Fried, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief of the Consumer Frauds & Protections Bureau Laura J. Levine, Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.