Two years into the pandemic and you thought you’d seen it all? How about an herbal tea that claims to cure COVID in 24-48 hours? It’s a representation the FTC says is steeped in deception. So we’ve joined forces with the FDA and the Department of Justice to file suit in federal court to challenge – among other things – allegedly false and deceptive claims that Earth Tea cures COVID-19 and that the defendants have clinical proof to back up their promises.
The complaint names New York-based B4B Earth Tea LLC, B4B Corporation, and owner Andrew Martin Sinclair (aka “Busta” Sinclair). According to the lawsuit, Sinclair and his companies sell a 16-ounce bottle of Earth Tea for $60. The defendants promote their product on their website and through social media posts and videos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. That’s where consumers found eye-popping claims like this:
- “B4B Corp is sharing a COVID-19 Update…Earth Tea works!! The all natural instant immune booster clinical trials proves its [sic] effective against Covid19”
- “Our Clinical Trial was successful. So successful we are offering a Money Back Guarantee against covid-19 if 2 bottles do not get you negative you will get your money back”
- “Our Goal is Zero Death, Zero Ventilator, Zero Suffering, Zero Hospitalization, Zero Long Haulers. Is that possible? Our first Clinical Trial Report will show that Nature Rules! Watch us lead the fight against #Covid19 with the world’s most powerful natural Supplement!”
That’s just for starters. In addition, the defendants have promoted their product with statements that:
- “Vaccines trial shows preventing hospitalization is 85%-96% while so far Earth Tea Extra Strength is 100% we have helped people who are vaccinated”
- “No one who was positive and used Earth Tea went to the hospital”
- Accompanying an image comparing a vial of vaccine with a bottle of Earth Tea,“Which one is 100% effective with 0 side effects…#COVID19 Trial Report Is The Answer Not What Leaders Want…Compare Both.”
The FTC is seeking refunds for consumers and civil penalties under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act. Even at this early stage of litigation, businesses can take two important messages from the filing.
The battle over bogus COVID claims continues. As long as companies peddle unsubstantiated “cures” that put the public health at risk, the FTC will continue to monitor the marketplace and take appropriate legal action under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act. What’s more, it’s the law – and it’s been the law for decades – that companies that claim their product can cure or prevent a serious disease need sound science to support their representations. “A study” isn’t sufficient. Expect the FTC to ask some key questions – for example, was the sample size sufficient to yield statistically significant results and was there a control group?
Promotional statements on social media platforms are claims that need the support of competent and reliable scientific evidence. As the FTC has noted, companies selling unsubstantiated COVID cures have found a home on some social media platforms. But FTC staff are on those platforms, too, keeping an eye out for questionable claims for health-related products.