FTC Prohibits Marketers of Herbal Products and the "Zapper" from Making Unsubstantiated Claims

A Seattle couple who sold a variety of herbal products and an electrical unit called the "Zapper" as a cure for such ailments as cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer's, and diabetes are prohibited from making any claims that their products are effective in treating or alleviating any disease or condition, unless they have scientific evidence to support the claims, as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC alleged in a complaint filed in federal court that Western Dietary Products Co. (Skookum), based in Blaine, Washington, and its owners marketed the "Zapper Electrical Unit" and their "cure packages" as treatments and/or cures for various serious diseases, and claimed that use of their herbal products made surgery and chemotherapy unnecessary for persons with cancer. The FTC complaint alleged that these claims were unsubstantiated.

In June 2001, the FTC filed a complaint against Western Dietary Products, doing business as Western Herb & Dietary Products, Inc., and Marvin and Miguelina Beckwith, alleging that they marketed and sold various herbal formulas and herbal cure products through the web site "www.curecancer.com." The defendants claimed that all diseases are caused by a specific type of parasite and that herbal remedies, along with use of the "Zapper," would cure them immediately.

The proposed stipulated final judgment and order, which requires the court's approval, would prohibit the defendants from making any claims that their products are effective in treating or alleviating any disease or condition, unless they can substantiate the claims with competent and reliable scientific evidence. In addition, the proposed settlement would prohibit the defendants from misrepresenting that use of their products in the treatment of cancer makes surgery or chemotherapy unnecessary. The proposed order includes a suspended judgment in the amount of $50,000, which would become due if the court finds that the defendants made material misrepresentations or omissions in their financial statements. The proposed settlement also contains various record keeping and reporting requirements designed to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants' compliance.

The Commission vote to authorize the staff to file the proposed stipulated final judgment and order was 5-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, in Seattle, on December 26, 2001.

NOTE: This stipulated final judgment and order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Stipulated final judgments have the force of law when signed by the judge.

Copies of the stipulated final judgment and order are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

(FTC Matter No. X010047)
(Civil Action No. C01-08118R)

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Brenda Mack,
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2182
Staff Contact:
Michael Milgrom or Brinley Williams,
FTC's East Central Region - Cleveland
216-263-3419