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A.G. Underwood announces settlement with company over misleading infant-feeding surveys

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NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today announced a settlement resolving an investigation into Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories, maker of Similac infant formula, over misleading marketing surveys the company sent to new parents about their infant-feeding habits. The surveys, sent under the logo of the "National Institute of Infant Nutrition," sought information about the recipients' demographics and habits for feeding their babies, including whether their baby had been breast-fed and, if formula-fed, the brand of formula used by the parents. However, there is no entity with the name "National Institute of Infant Nutrition" and Abbott used the survey information for its own marketing purposes.

The settlement requires Abbott to accurately disclose the purpose for which survey information is sought and prohibits Abbott from falsely representing that their surveys are being conducted for scientific study. The settlement also requires Abbott to pay $50,000 in costs.

'This survey was a formula for deception," said Attorney General Underwood. "My office will not allow any business to mislead New Yorkers into sharing private information under false pretenses."
The Attorney General's investigation revealed that between March 2015 and April 2017, Abbott sent more than 200,000 surveys to new parents in New York under the logo of the "National Institute of Infant Nutrition," accompanied by a letter from an individual identified as the "Research Director," advising that the National Institute of Infant Nutrition conducts the monthly surveys to understand infant nutrition. The letter urged consumers to complete the survey to help with "this important research."

After the Attorney General's Office commenced its investigation, Abbott agreed to stop using the "National Institute of Infant Nutrition" logo on its surveys. Under the settlement, Abbott is required to disclose at the top of any survey either its name or the name of any third party conducting the market research on its behalf.

This investigation was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Amy Schallop and Emily Auletta, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine and Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, all of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau. The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is overseen by Executive Deputy Attorney General of Economic Justice Manisha M. Sheth.