3-A-DAY PROTEST REACHES RETAILERS

WILMINGTON, Del. -- In a letter to 300 supermarket chains, produce industry leaders have asked retailers to reconsider supporting the dairy industry's 3-A-Day For Stronger Bones campaign, and avoid connecting the produce industry's 5 A Day program with 3-A-Day in advertising and promotion.It's the latest effort by produce to stop dairy from using the 3-A-Day logo, which produce leaders insist infringes

WILMINGTON, Del. -- In a letter to 300 supermarket chains, produce industry leaders have asked retailers to reconsider supporting the dairy industry's 3-A-Day For Stronger Bones campaign, and avoid connecting the produce industry's 5 A Day program with 3-A-Day in advertising and promotion.

It's the latest effort by produce to stop dairy from using the 3-A-Day logo, which produce leaders insist infringes on the 5 A Day trademark, held by 5 A Day's government partner, the National Cancer Institute. Produce industry leaders also have accused the dairy industry of rolling out its $25 million marketing campaign under the guise of a public health campaign, noting 3-A-Day ads have made no distinction between high-fat and low-fat products.

Signed by the presidents of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association and the Produce Marketing Association, the letter expressed concerns about dairy's promotion of foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and the potential confusion the campaign may cause among consumers who already are aware of the 5 A Day produce-industry effort, in existence for more than 10 years.

"Simply put, [3-A-Day] is a dairy promotion masquerading as a health campaign," the letter read.

Enclosed with the letter were other statements signed by public health organizations that oppose the 3-A-Day campaign, including the American Cancer Society.

Ahold USA has agreed to place the 3-A-Day logo only on low-fat, reduced-fat and fat-free products in the company's private-label brands of milk and cheese products, sold at its six supermarket chains. The Chantilly, Va.-based company made the decision in light of U.S. dietary guidelines that recommend Americans choose low-fat dairy products most often, a spokeswoman for the company said.

"We want people to know the importance of the calcium message," said Odonna Mathews, vice president of consumer affairs for Giant Food, Landover, Md., an Ahold division. "We support the concept. The only way we're comfortable promoting it is the low-fat way."

"That's a very responsible move from the retailer's perspective," said Elizabeth Pivonka, president of PBH, a nonprofit foundation that works with the NCI to manage the 5 A Day program. "Ultimately, I'd like to not see them use 3-A-Day at all."

The NCI is looking into challenging the dairy industry's use of the 3-A-Day logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Before the flap between the two industries came to light earlier this year, dairy marketing representatives told SN they had enlisted support for 3-A-Day from numerous manufacturers, who are chipping in a portion of the campaign funds. 3-A-Day also has received a vote of confidence from several large retailers. In fact, Kroger recently announced all of its divisions would participate in marketing the dairy campaign. A Kroger spokesman said the company had no comment on the disagreement.

Characterizing the campaign as a positive step toward addressing the calcium deficit, particularly in children, the 3-A-Day marketers have enlisted the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the National Medical Association.

Dr. Roger Suchyta, associate executive director of the AAP, Elk Grove Village, Ill, disputed a published report that indicated the organization was reassessing its involvement in the dairy campaign.

"We've been reviewing the materials and providing technical expertise to 3-A-Day, particularly over the issue of low fat," Suchyta said.