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Weight Watchers sues Jenny Craig over ad claims

Weight Watchers is suing rival Jenny Craig, claiming it lied in an advertising campaign saying its weight-loss program is superior to Weight Watchers'.

The centerpiece of the campaign is a TV ad featuring spokeswoman Valerie Bertinelli in a lab coat saying that "a major clinical trial" shows "Jenny Craig clients lost, on average, over twice as much weight as those on the largest weight-loss program," referring to Weight Watchers, according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.

"The Jenny Craig advertisements are false," Weight Watchers said. "Jenny Craig did not conduct 'a major clinical trial' comparing its product with the Weight Watchers program."

Weight Watchers, based in Manhattan, asked the court to stop Jenny Craig, a unit of Nestle, from using ads claiming its weight-loss program is superior. It also seeks damages.

Weight Watchers said the beginning of the year is "a critical time for weight-loss companies" as consumers seek to stick to New Year's resolutions to drop pounds.

Julie Safer, a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig, declined to comment immediately.

In the campaign started late last month, Jenny Craig makes similar claims to those in the TV ad in print and Internet advertising and on its Web site, according to the complaint.

Jenny Craig's "false and deceptive advertising campaign" is based on separate studies comparing the two companies' programs with dieters who didn't use a commercial program, according to the complaint. The Weight Watchers study is 10 years old, the complaint says.

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