TrendMark International, Inc., a Memphis, Tennessee company, and its owners, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made a host of unsubstantiated weight loss and health-related claims about their "THIN-THIN" Diet™ program. The THIN-THIN Diet™ is a combination of two weight loss products -- NEURO-THIN™ and LIPO-THIN™ -- that purportedly cause weight loss. The main ingredient in LIPO-THIN™ is chitin, a natural fiber made from the ground-up hydrolyzed exoskeletons of shellfish. NEURO-THIN™ is made primarily of various amino acids. The FTC alleges that the respondents did not have adequate substantiation for their ad claims that consumers using the "THIN-THIN" Diet™ program would lose significant amounts of weight or experience other health-related benefits without changing their diet, and that these claims were validated by scientific studies. The proposed settlement of the charges would prohibit TrendMark and its owners from misrepresenting the results of any weight loss program or product they offer, and require them to have scientific data to back up any claims about the health benefits, performance or efficacy of any food, drug or device.
The FTC's complaint which details the allegations names TrendMark Inc., doing business as TrendMark International, William McCormack and E. Robert Gates. TrendMark is a multi-level network marketing company that markets various dietary supplements and other products directly to consumers and through numerous individual distributors. According to the complaint, the respondents advertised the THIN-THIN Diet™ in unsolicited commercial e-mail sent to users of America OnLine (AOL) and on its website. Their advertisements contained statements such as:
- "NEW ALL-NATURAL WEIGHT LOSS PRODUCT, NOW ON THE MARKET!!!"
- The Thin-Thin Diet™ Program is a Nutritional Breakthrough Program with a NO DIET, NO WILL POWER, easy way to LOSE UP TO 20 POUNDS PER MONTH and KEEP IT OFF!!"
- ..."Because of the THIN-THIN Diet™, I have reached my weight-loss goal and my diabetes is much less of a problem!"; and
- ..."I've lost 14 pounds already on the THIN-THIN DIET™ and feel great!"
The FTC alleged that through the use of such claims, TrendMark represented that customers would achieve significant weight loss without a change in diet. In addition, the ads state that by taking NEURO-THIN™ and/or LIPO-THIN™, consumers could lower LDL cholesterol and boost HDL cholesterol; promote healing of ulcers and lesions; reduce levels of uric acid in the blood; and improve cardiovascular health, among other things. The FTC alleges that these representations were unsubstantiated. The ads also stated that the representations made by the respondents are backed by scientific studies, when, in fact, the FTC alleges, most of the studies submitted by the respondents were test tube studies and studies of rats that did not relate adequately to their advertising claims. The ads further cited endorsements from consumers who were purported to have benefitted from using NEURO-THIN™ and LIPO-THIN™. In fact, the FTC alleges, the respondents failed to disclose that some of the testimonials cited in the ads were made by TrendMark distributors or their spouses -- people who had a material connection to or were not independent from the respondents.
The proposed order to settle these charges, announced today for public comment, would prohibit TrendMark and its owners from making each of the specific claims alleged in the complaint for their THIN-THIN Diet™. The proposed order would also prohibit the respondents from misrepresenting the health benefits, performance or efficacy of NEURO-THIN™ and LIPO-THIN™, or any food, drug or device without competent and reliable scientific substantiation. In addition, the respondents would be prohibited from misrepresenting the results of any test, study or research, and would be required to disclose clearly and prominently any material connection between a product endorser and the respondents.
The consent agreement would allow the respondents to use certain claims that are approved for labels by the Food and Drug Administration's Nutrition Labeling AND Education Act of 1990.
This matter was investigated by the FTC's New York Regional Office. The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent agreement for public comment was 5-0. An summary of 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 $11,000.
Copies of the complaint, the proposed consent agreement and an analysis of the agreement to assist the public in commenting are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. Consent agreements subject to public comment also are available by calling 202-326-3627. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
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