FTC Takes a Regulatory Sledgehammer to the Weight Loss Market

FTC Takes a Regulatory Sledgehammer
to the Weight Loss Market

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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Thanks to NutriSciences Blog

April 27th, 2009 —   Weight loss has been the focus of the FTC over the past few years but '08 and '09 have seen a significant step up in their activity. Within the last week we have seen 2 of the heavy weight formulations receive legal attention.

In 2005 The FTC charged RTC Research & Development, LLC (and owners Tracy and Robert Chinery) with making false and unsubstantiated weight-loss claims for Xenadrine EFX. In 2006 the court found in favour of the FTC and under the terms of the settlement RTC to pay $8 million in consumer redress. However, it has taken until the 24th of April 09 to conclude this litigation as Tracy Chinery’s conduct as the managing member of RTC and as an officer and employee of Nutraquest, Inc (the original marketer of Xenadrine EFX) was sufficient to find her personally liable for the advertising under the FTC Act. As of April 2009 all 3 defendants in the case have now signed the settlement agreement.

Beyond the financial implications already settled in 2006 all defendants are now barred from making any claims about health, performance, efficacy, safety, or side effects of any weight-loss product, dietary supplement, food, drug, or device, unless the representation is true, not misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

This ongoing interest in the weight loss market has now moved to the already bewildered ‘Hoodia’ category. On the 27th April 2009 the FTC have charged suppliers of Hoodia gordonii including Nutraceuticals International, Stella Labs, as well as individual defendants from these companies with deceptive advertising claims. The FTC alleges that the defendants not only made false and deceptive claims about what hoodia could do, but also, claimed that their product was Hoodia gordonii, a plant native to southern Africa, when it was not.

The Commission seeks to permanently bar the defendants from deceptively advertising hoodia, and to obtain disgorgement of the defendants’ profits from their Hoodia sales. The FTC have been very specific in there complaint saying the deceptive claims made about Hoodia enable consumers to lose weight and suppress appetites and that it was scientifically proven to suppress appetite, resulting in weight loss; that it was clinically proven to reduce caloric intake by 1,000 to 2,000 calories per day. Furthermore, it was derived from South African Hoodia gordonii; and that Hoodia was an effective treatment for obesity.

The court has set a preliminary injunction hearing for April 29, 2009 and we await a verdict on what could be one of the most expensive lawsuits in weight loss history.


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