Upcoming Issue Highlights

Weight Loss Supplement Claims Provide FTC with Enforcement Initiatives

Advertising claims for weight loss supplement products feed the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with the highest settlement costs within the dietary supplement and functional food category, according to a new web-based, members-only tool from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN, Washington, D.C.).

The new online tool is a compilation of all available FTC advertising enforcement actions related to dietary supplements and functional foods since 2003, and will be updated quarterly. In 2006, CRN provided the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus with a multi-year grant enabling NAD to increase its monitoring of dietary supplement advertising.

According to Steve Mister, CRN president and CEO, there are appropriate and legal ways to market weight loss and other dietary supplement and functional food products, and then there are advertising claims that raise red flags with the FTC.

“We developed this tool as a service to our member companies so they have a one-stop location to review the kinds of claims that have led to FTC investigations, consent degrees and punitive financial settlements,” said Mister, who testified earlier this year at a Capitol Hill weight loss claims hearing before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance.

“Companies can study these cases, look at examples of language that put others under FTC scrutiny for enforcement‹ and then avoid using such language in their own advertising,” added Mister.

CRN’s searchable compilation indicates that the weight loss category generated the highest settlement costs at $438.4 million, with immunity claims next in line with settlements of $47.2 million and impermissible cancer claims at a distant, but relevant, third place, with claims settlements of $5 million.

“We’re now also starting to see enforcement trends in anti-aging claims and claims addressing diabetes,” said Mister. “The data illustrates how active FTC has been in recent years and should be a warning to all companies that the agency will move aggressively to remove claims that it believes mislead consumers.”

For more information, vist www.crnusa.org.