Rose Creek Health Products, Inc., based in Kettle Falls, Washington, and its sister corporation have been charged by the Federal Trade Commission with making blatantly false and unsubstantiated health claims in their advertisements for a purported nutritional supplement called "Vitamin O." The defendants' ads -- which have appeared in USA Today and in other newspapers, and on the Internet -- claim that Vitamin O can cure or prevent serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. The FTC says that Vitamin O appears to be nothing more than saltwater.
The FTC is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions to halt the dissemination of the defendants' advertisements and resulting consumer injury.
"When consumers see claims for Vitamin O, we hope they think Vitamin NO," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "This case brings home the message that unsubstantiated and outlandish claims for dietary supplements will not be tolerated. It also should remind the media that they can do their readers an important service by screening ads and refusing to run those that are clearly false."
The FTC's complaint detailing the charges names Rose Creek Health Products, Inc., its sister corporation, The Staff of Life, Inc., and Donald L. Smyth, president and sole shareholder of both corporations. The defendants sell various dietary supplements via mail order, including Vitamin O. The defendants claim that Vitamin O, when taken orally, enriches the bloodstream with supplemental oxygen. The ads state that Vitamin O consists of "intact oxygen molecules in a liquid solution of distilled water, sodium chloride and trace materials." A two ounce bottle of Vitamin O costs $20.00 to $25.00.
The complaint alleges that the defendants, through statements and testimonials contained in their ads, falsely represented that Vitamin O:
- administered orally allows oxygen molecules to be absorbed through the gastrointestinal system;
- prevents and is an effective treatment for life-threatening diseases, including cancer and pulmonary disease;
- is an effective treatment or prevention for many other physical ailments, including breathing problems, chronic headaches, infections, colds and flu;
- has a beneficial effect on human health; and
- was developed by Dr. William F. Koch and used by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronauts during NASA space missions.
According to the complaint, the defendants' ads also falsely claim that they have medical and scientific research that establishes the efficacy of Vitamin O, and that the efficacy claims are supported by a reasonable basis.
The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, in Spokane, on March 11, 1999.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint 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; 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.
(FTC File No. 992 3107)
(Civil Action No. CS-99-0063-EFS)
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