Nature's Bounty, Inc., and two of its wholly-owned subsi- diaries have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allega- tions that they made deceptive weight-loss, body-building, disease-treatment or other health-related claims for 26 nutrient supplements they marketed. The proposed settlement would require the respondents to pay $250,000 in consumer redress, prohibit them from making various allegedly false claims, and require them to have scientific evidence to back up a variety of specific health-related advertising and promotional claims for any product they market in the future.
The FTC complaint detailing the allegations names Nature's Bounty, Inc., and its subsidiaries, Puritan's Pride, Inc., and Vitamin World, Inc. All three firms operate from the same address in Bohemia, New York. The FTC complaint challenges claims for the products that were made in mail order catalogs, some published jointly by Puritan's Pride and General Nutrition Centers (which also has been the subject of FTC law-enforcement action for nutrient supplement claims) and others published solely by Puritan's Pride, as well as in promotional materials distributed at a Nature's Bounty retail store.
The FTC alleged that many of the representations made by the respondents were false, including that:
- Sleeper's Diet promotes weight loss during sleep;
- L-Arginine and L-Ornithine stimulate the release of human growth hormone which increases muscle mass while decreasing body fat;
- more -
- L-Cysteine promotes hair growth; and
- L-Methionine prevents premature hair loss.
Nature's Bounty and the two subsidiaries also are alleged to have falsely represented that scientific research proved several other claims, including that:
- Octacosanol may improve reaction time, reduce cholesterol levels, and strengthen muscles;
- New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel Extract prevents arthritis and relieves its symptoms;
- patients undergoing anti-oxidant therapy such as that provided by Eye-Vites and CATA-RX are 70 percent less likely to develop cataracts; and
- Ginsana improves physical endurance and mental alertness.
In addition, the FTC charged the respondents with failing to have adequate evidence to support a variety of other representa- tions, including representations that the relevant product causes weight loss by allowing calories to pass through the body undi- gested, impeding the absorption of calories or sugar, or elimi- nating body fat; improves memory retention; removes dark circles from under the eyes; promotes growth in muscle mass and improves strength; prevents hangovers and brain and liver damage from alcohol; helps prevent harm caused by cigarette smoke; or aids in digestion.
Finally, the FTC charged that the respondents' use of the names Sleeper's Diet, Memory Booster, Dark Circle Eye Treatment, and Super Fat Burners was deceptive because the names made repre- sentations about the products that the respondents could not substantiate.
The proposed consent agreement to settle these charges, announced today for public comment, would require Nature's Bounty and its subsidiaries to pay $250,000 to the Commission. If practical the money will be used for consumer refunds. Other- wise, it will go to the U.S. Treasury.
The consent also would prohibit the respondents from making the claims challenged as false, and require them to have substan- tiation for specific health-related representations they make in advertising and promoting any product in the future. As to claims prohibited as false, for example, the settlement would bar
representations that Sleeper's Diet, L-Arginine or any substan- tially similar amino acid product stimulates greater production or release of human growth hormone, promotes muscular develop- ment, burns fat or otherwise alters human metabolism to burn stored fat, or promotes weight loss. Baldness treatment claims also would be prohibited for L-Cysteine, L-Methionine or any substantially similar product.
Examples of representations for which the respondents would be required to have scientific substantiation include advertising and promotional claims that any product cures or treats any disease or relieves its symptoms, provides any weight loss bene- fit, stimulates metabolism, promotes greater muscular development or endurance, improves mental comprehension, aids digestion, relieves stress, or prevents or treats fatigue.
In addition, the settlement would prohibit the respondents from deceptively using the product names Sleeper's Diet, Memory Booster, Dark Circle Eye Treatment, or Super Fat Burners. Finally, it includes various reporting requirements that would assist the FTC in monitoring the respondents' compliance with its provisions.
The Commission vote to approve the proposed consent agree- ment for public comment was 4-1, with Commissioner Mary L. Azcuenaga dissenting. In her statement, Commissioner Azcuenaga said that she was dissenting from the Commission's decision to accept a proposed consent order with Nature's Bounty and its subsidiaries because the order leaves the respondents free to sell products they know or should have known were deceptively labeled. "I believe that the order should hold the respondents liable if they know, or should know, that the labels or packaging of any such product contains false or unsubstantiated claims," Azcuenaga said.
The proposed consent agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $10,000. Nature's Bounty--04/27/95)
Copies of the complaint, proposed consent agreement, and an analysis of the agreement to assist the public in commenting, are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, at the above address.
(FTC File No. 932 3224)