Dietary Supplement Law: Summary of The FTC’s Marketing Crackdown
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in conjunction with several government offices and agencies, executed a year-long dietary supplement law crackdown. The targets? Manufacturers and marketers suspected of flouting guidelines. Regulators investigated about 120 parties, resulting in 89 lawsuits, in 18 states.
Or, to put it bluntly: The FTC sanctioned marketers caught peddling sketchy weight loss and “miracle” drugs.
A spokesperson explained:
The crackdown serves as a warning to dietary supplement manufacturers and marketers.
Do you want to be on the FTC’s radar? Didn’t think so. So, if you’re involved in the promotion of weight loss or health supplements, now is the time to invest in a marketing compliance review. Either read up on the latest rules and regulations or you own, or, enlist a marketing attorney to conduct a thorough analysis.
Dietary Supplement Law: Details About The FTC’s Marketing Crackdown
What federal, state, and quasi-governmental agencies participated in the dietary supplement law crackdown?
- The Federal Trade Commission
- The Food and Drug Administration
- The Internal Revenue Service
- Various criminal investigation units
- The Department of Defense
- The United States Postal Inspection Service
- United States Anti-Doping Agency
What charges were brought against the dietary supplement manufacturers and marketers?
- Improper Labeling: Some of the products supposedly contained ingredients that weren’t listed on the packaging.
- Improper Benefit Claims: Several of the marketing materials allegedly included unsubstantiated and scientifically unsupported claims. Some of the cases involved the use of promotional language that promised to help cure cancer, arthritis, herpes, opiate addiction, and Alzheimer’s. Government officials also targeted marketers for publishing outrageous weight loss claims like *shed five pounds in four days with one pill, or up to 20 pounds in 16 days with four pills.*
- Improper Financial Practices: Some of the targeted parties were brought up on “obstruction of an FDA proceeding” and “conspiracy to commit money laundering” charges.
- Improper Disclosures: Several of the indicted parties allegedly knew about studies that linked their products to liver toxicity, but failed to include disclaimers.
- Improper Manufacturing: A few of the businesses and marketers caught in the sting supposedly used false certificates of analysis and questionable labeling; plus, a few parties allegedly lied about ingredients, claiming the products used natural plant extracts…but “natural” turned out to be a synthetic invention, courtesy of a Chinese factory.
- Improper Testing: Several of the pursued businesses allegedly sold and marketed dietary supplements without first determining the safety of their products.
- Recidivism: At least one of the targeted parties was allegedly given fair warning to stop sales on one of their products. But according to reports, instead of complying, the company executives purportedly engaged in a “surreptitious, all-hands-on-deck effort to sell as much” of the product “as quickly as possible.”
What Consequences Did the “Busted” Parties Face?
- Asset Seizures: Not only did some of the affected parties lose dozens of investment accounts, but they also lost real estate, luxury goods, and sports cars.
- Bans and Promises: Presumably, the guilty parties will – if they haven’t already –be made to sign promissory agreements pledging to rebuke “unfair and deceptive marketing” in the future.
If you’re in the business of manufacturing or marketing dietary supplements, check out the resources below.
- An FTC-approved infographic: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0538-dietary-supplement-ads-infographic
- Chart of over 100 products that have been found to contain hidden ingredients – http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/sda/sdNavigation.cfm?sd=tainted_supplements_cder&displayAll=false&page=6 (Previously Published)
- The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ Consortium for Health and Military Performance partnered with USADA to create an interactive educational module called “Get the Scoop on Supplements: Realize, Recognize, and Reduce Your Risk.” They also developed two mobile applications: the HPRC’s Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) High-Risk Supplement List mobile application and USADA’s Supplement 411 mobile application.
Speak To A Dietary Supplement Marketing Attorney
Kelly Warner is an Internet law firm that regularly works with entrepreneurs in the supplement marketing space. We’ve helped businesses and FBA sellers escape tight jams. Our attorneys frequently conduct compliance reviews for marketers and e-commerce retailers.
When you’re ready, get in touch. We look forward to working with you soon.