Want to lose weight and keep it off, but don't know which product or service is right for you? The "Partnership for Healthy Weight Management" today released voluntary guidelines designed to help providers of weight loss products and services give consumers clear and easily understood disclosures to help them select the products or services that best meet their needs.
"Overweight and obesity are major public health issues. Research shows that about 54 percent of American adults are overweight or obese and an estimated 45 million Americans diet each year. While diet and exercise are still considered the best ways to lose weight and maintain it, consumers often seek help to reach their goal," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, and a Partnership member. "These voluntary guidelines were developed by the Partnership to give consumers who are seriously and conscientiously trying to lose and maintain weight loss the information they need when comparing products and services."
"These guidelines are a critical positive step in providing consumers with the information they need to make wise weight management choices. It is critical that we take action to stem the growth of the American waistline. But with the profusion of products and services available to assist them in these efforts, consumers must be adequately informed of what realistic results, risks, and costs they can expect from using these products and services," said U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher.
The Partnership is comprised of 41 organizations and individuals, including representatives from industry groups, public advocacy organizations, government agencies, scientific associations and academia. The guidelines are the result of more than a year's effort by the Partnership and follow a meeting in October 1997 when the FTC, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and
Kidney Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American Society for Clinical Nutrition convened a public conference about information consumers need to evaluate weight loss products and services.
"The Partnership for Health Weight Management is a landmark effort on behalf of the millions of consumers who are trying to lose weight," Bernstein said. " When 41 organizations from government, industry and the advocacy community agree that consumers need information to evaluate weight loss products and services, it's a big deal. When they agree on what that information should be, that's really impressive. These voluntary disclosures should help consumers determine that they're going to get what they're paying for."
The voluntary guidelines encourage companies offering weight loss products or services to the public to provide basic information on costs, health complications, staff qualifications and difficulty of maintaining weight loss. The guides also provide illustrations of the varying formats for disclosure that providers can use, and the Partnership urges that all disclosures be displayed clearly and prominently.
For example, those who adopt the guidelines should disclose the:
In addition to the guidelines, the Partnership also released its statement of principles that define the mission of the Partnership -- to promote sound guidance on strategies for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and set forth the guiding principles of the organization.
A new FTC consumer education brochure, Setting Goals for Weight Loss, and a video public service announcement prepared by Knoll Pharmaceutical Company, one of the Partnership members, also were released today. Both promote the concept that moderate weight loss, if maintained, can reduce some of the health risks associated with overweight or obesity.
"Losing weight and keeping it off can be tough. Determining whether a weight loss product or service is right for you shouldn't be. Information about staff qualifications, program costs, health risks of overweight and obesity, and the risks of the program or product is important to consumers. The voluntary guidelines that this Partnership developed should go a long way toward helping consumers achieve a healthy weight," Bernstein concluded.
Copies of the brochure, guidelines, and public service announcement and other materials about weight loss are available on the Internet at http://www.consumer.gov/weightloss and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.