Massachusetts Sues Egg Company Over Advertising Health Claims
BOSTON (AP) _ Massachusetts hopes to crack advertising claims made by an egg company that has tried to lure consumers around the country by saying ″now you can eat real eggs again and not increase your serum cholesterol.″
The state attorney general’s office sued Eggland’s Best Inc. Thursday alleging false advertising, saying commercials for the eggs left the false impression they had lower cholesterol than other eggs. The company denied the allegation.
″An egg is an egg,″ said Barbara Anthony, chief of the attorney general’s public protection bureau. ″This egg is not a different egg in terms of its cholesterol level.″
The egg is marketed in 45 states. While the attorney general’s office said that roughly 20 states are negotiating with the King of Prussia, Pa.-based company over its advertising claims, Massachusetts is the first to sue.
Eggland’s advertising campaign includes television commercials featuring a restaurant scene with the operator touting the company’s eggs and talking about lower cholesterol levels.
The ads cite a study that shows people who ate up to 12 of the eggs a week as part of a low-fat diet showed no increase in their serum cholesterol.
According to the attorney general’s office, the study was flawed for several reasons, including its failure to conduct tests using other eggs as a control group. The study results may also have had more to do with the fact that the subjects were placed on a low-fat diet, and weight reduction in itself can cause a cholesterol reduction.
Health experts recommend limiting egg consumption to no more than three or four a week.
Dr. Jeffrey Garwin, Eggland’s vice president for medical and quality assurance, said the company never intended to leave the impression that the cholesterol levels of its eggs were lower than those of others.
″The intention was always to make it clear that these eggs contain about as much cholesterol and fat as regular eggs do,″ Garwin said. ″We have a nutrition label and it says it right on the label.″
Garwin estimated his company has sold about 10 million cartons of a dozen eggs since it went on sale in 1992. The eggs sell for about $1.80 per dozen, generally more than the cost of regular eggs.
Jim Dormady, who works in the dairy department of Star Market in Brookline, said many customers are misled.
″We get predominantly older people,″ Dormady said. ″They come in here, figure it’s cholesterol free and buy it by the bunches.″
Massachusetts filed the lawsuit in Suffolk County Superior Court. In addition to seeking civil penalties, the state is seeking corrective advertising.