Two Washington-based companies and the individual who controls them have agreed to pay $375,000 in redress to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made false and unsubstantiated health claims in their advertising for a purported nutritional supplement called "Vitamin O." The defendants' ads claimed that "Vitamin O" could treat or prevent serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease by enriching the bloodstream with supplemental oxygen. The defendants ran full-page ads in national newspapers including USA Today. As part of the settlement, the defendants are prohibited from representing that "Vitamin O" or any food, drug or dietary supplement they market is effective against any life-threatening disease, or has any other health benefits, unless they possess competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the representation.
In March 1999, the FTC filed a complaint in federal district court naming Rose Creek Health Products, Inc., The Staff of Life, Inc., and Donald L. Smyth, president and sole shareholder of both corporations (collectively, Rose Creek). The complaint alleged that the defendants falsely claimed that "Vitamin O" taken orally allows oxygen molecules to be absorbed through the gastrointestinal system, that "Vitamin O" prevents or treats life-threatening diseases and other ailments, and that these results are established by medical and scientific research.
The proposed settlement would prohibit the defendants from making unsupported representations that:
- "Vitamin O" or any substantially similar product prevents or is an effective treatment for life-threatening diseases, including but not limited to, cancer, cardiovascular disease and pulmonary disease; or
- the effectiveness of "Vitamin O" is established by medical or scientific research or studies.
The settlement also would prohibit the defendants from making any unsupported representation about the health benefits, performance, efficacy or safety of any other food, drug, or dietary supplement. The settlement would further prohibit the defendants from representing that any academic, scientific, or government organization, or any individual with medical or scientific training, uses, is affiliated with, or otherwise endorses or supports, the defendants' products unless the representation is true.
In addition, the proposed settlement would prohibit the defendants from deceptively representing that any user testimonial or endorsement of a product represents the typical or ordinary experience of members of the public who use the product.
The settlement would further prohibit the defendants from giving their distributors any promotional or marketing materials prohibited by the order and from permitting their distributors to make any representations prohibited by the order. The defendants are required to notify each of their current and future distributors about the proposed order.
The defendants would be required to pay $375,000 for consumer redress within ten days of the date the consent decree is signed by the judge..
Finally, the settlement contains standard recordkeeping provisions designed to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants' compliance.
The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the proposed consent decree was 5-0. The consent decree was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, in Spokane, on April 28, 2000.
NOTE: A consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. Consent decrees have the force of the law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the news release 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; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. Copies of the consent decree will be available shortly. 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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