3-A-DAY FOOD FIGHT ESCALATES WITH LETTER

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- A number of health organizations and produce industry advocates banded together to fight the dairy industry's new 3-A-Day for Stronger Bones marketing campaign, which opponents insist infringes on the produce industry's older 5 A Day for Better Health program.In a letter to Thomas P. Gallagher, chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc., 14 public health organizations and three

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- A number of health organizations and produce industry advocates banded together to fight the dairy industry's new 3-A-Day for Stronger Bones marketing campaign, which opponents insist infringes on the produce industry's older 5 A Day for Better Health program.

In a letter to Thomas P. Gallagher, chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc., 14 public health organizations and three nutrition experts urged officials at DMI to put an end to the dairy industry-funded, $25 million 3-A-Day program. Full-page ads in consumer magazines encourage people to get their calcium through three servings a day of milk, yogurt and cheese. In supermarkets, consumers will find dairy products bearing the campaign's red, white and blue logo.

Unlike the "Got Milk" and milk moustache campaigns, which were marketing efforts, the new campaign blurs the line between a marketing program and a legitimate public health campaign, the health advocates noted. The advocates said they object to the dairy industry's failure to distinguish between full-fat and low-fat dairy products, and they insist dairy officials are overstating the number of daily servings of dairy products required by most consumers for good nutrition. They also fear consumers will be mixed up by the 5 A Day and 3-A-Day promotions, which are entirely different.

"As currently marketed, it is also a potential threat to the health of Americans by competing with the critical public health message that all Americans need to consume at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables," the letter stated.

But a spokesman for the National Dairy Council said it intends to proceed with its campaign, which has enlisted its own boosters in the form of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the National Medical Association, an organization representing the interests of African American physicians and their patients, the spokesman said.

"We're disappointed that the Produce for Better Health people have so vigorously attacked 3-A-Day," said Greg Miller, a nutrition science authority, who serves as senior vice president of nutrition and scientific affairs for the NDC. "We think it's an important public health marketing and education program that'll help reduce consumer confusion out there on [how one] should eat."

The Food Guide Pyramid, developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommends two to three servings of milk products daily. Many dairy products deliver less than the recommended 300 milligrams of calcium per serving, so the dairy industry chose the higher number for its slogan, Miller said.

The initial flight of print ads, picturing milk, cheese or yogurt, do not talk about fat content. However, officials are developing recipes for the 3-A-Day Web site featuring lower-fat products, and they are working on a public health campaign to address the fat content issue, he said.