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Truth in advertising?

Does your dietary supplement’s advertising promise more than the product can actually deliver?

HPRC has often posted information about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and safety surrounding the topic of dietary supplements. But there’s another Federal agency watchdogging the supplements industry: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). One of the primary missions of FTC is to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices. That includes misleading or false advertising and claims. FTC advertising law states that all claims by dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors must be substantiated before they are made. So far in 2014 alone, FTC has issued 32 press releases regarding unsatisfactory practices by dietary supplement companies.

Just as FDA has a reporting system for adverse effects associated with dietary supplements, FTC has a consumer complaint process that you can use. For this and other consumer information related to dietary supplements, visit this FTC web page.

The FTC and fake acai “news” claims

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Watch out for apparent news websites, even those displaying recognizable logos, that make weight-loss claims for acai berry supplements. The FTC is targeting these deceptive practices.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking to bar deceptive claims made by websites posing as reputable news sites to entice consumers to buy acai berry weight-loss products. The FTC says these companies are not “news-gathering organizations” and their claims that acai berry supplements can cause rapid weight loss are unsupported. For more information, read the FTC release: “FTC Seeks to Halt 10 Operators of Fake News Sites from Making Claims About Acai Berry Weight Loss Products.”

FDA Press Release: FDA and FTC issue warning letter to companies selling fraudulent STD products

HPRC Fitness Arena:
The FDA and FTC have issued a warning to companies marketing unproven products to treat STDs.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued warning letters to several companies selling unproven products claiming to treat, cure, and prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These products—such as Medavir, Herpaflor, Viruxo, C-Cure, and Never an Outbreak—violate federal law because the FDA has not evaluated them for safety and effectiveness. Some are marketed as dietary supplements, but the FDA considers them drugs since they are offered for the treatment of disease. More information is provided in the FDA Press Release.

What’s a health claim?

A recent FTC complaint against POM Wonderful products had us wondering what exactly a health claim is.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently filed a complaint against POM Wonderful products due to deceptive advertising. POM Wonderful has claimed that its products will reduce (or treat) heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. The FTC says that these claims are not supported by scientific research.

So, what’s a health claim and what’s considered acceptable advertising as such?

A health claim statement has to have a food substance, food, or dietary ingredient, and a health condition or disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain health claims that, based on scientific evidence, show a link between a food or supplement and a health condition or disease. Health claims cannot state that a food product or supplement can treat or cure a disease. It may claim to minimize a disease risk; for example, a product advertised as low sodium can state the approved claim that “diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors.”

Health claims shouldn’t be confused with structure/function claims. These claims do not have to be approved and reviewed by the FDA, yet they must be truthful in stating that a substance maintains structures and/or functions of the body.  We see these claims on many fiber-rich products, like “fiber maintains bowel regularity,” or a dairy product stating that “calcium builds strong bones.” Unlike health claims, structure/function claims cannot be linked to a health-related condition or disease.  Also, an important point to keep in mind: if a dietary supplement label makes a structure/function claim, it must also state this disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

There are also nutrient content claims.  These describe the amount of a nutrient in a product.  Descriptions such as free, low, high, and rich in are used, or other terms that describe the nutrient content to that of the content in another product, such as reduced, lite, less, or more.

Manufacturing companies want consumers to buy their products.  We, as consumers, must be savvy as we try to choose products that are healthy for our families and us. False health claims are used on food products as well as dietary supplements. They claim to help us lose weight, cure diseases, and prevent memory loss. The FDA has not approved claims that focus on the treatment of diseases. They have, however, set forth regulations to authorize health claims after the scientific evidence has been presented and reviewed.

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