Past weeks have begun to witness the indictment of several firms that are now being accused of marketing products through the use of unsubstantiated claims. According to recent allegations, several prominent companies have suggested that their products provide immunity to certain diseases, when in fact they do not. One of the most recent companies accused of committing such transgressions is Amway, an industry leader in direct selling businesses. However, the allegedly deceitful marketing strategies practiced by Amway’s Nutrilite campaign have caught the attention of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
According to Amway, the firm responsible for Nutrilite products, plant nutrients are essential to good health. Their experts recommend eating an eclectic array of different brightly-colored fruits and vegetables every day. Subsequently, Amway developed Nutrilite Twist Tubes to ensure consumers were receiving the proper amount of nutrients their body’s required. The healthful plant nutrient compounds found in Nutrilite supplements promise to fill in daily nutritional gaps. However, Nutrilite Twist Tubes also suggest that they are capable of providing the same immunity benefits as real fruit and vegetables, a promise that regulators believe to be deceptive and unsubstantiated.
CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardener announced that Nutrilite supplements do not provide the same benefits as whole fruits and vegetables. Therefore the immunity claims provided by Nutrilite products are to be considered unsubstantiated. According to the CSPI, Amway’s claim that the Nutrilite Immunity Twist Tube product is an immune system booster that protects your cells is unlawful “because it implies the product will prevent disease. It won’t.” Representatives from the CSPI continued to acknowledge that “dietary supplements simply do not provide the same health benefits as a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables.”
However, Amway is not the only firm accused of making unsubstantiated claims of immunity. The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD), a prominent ad watchdog group, accused Gerber of using the phrase ‘natural immune support’ on baby food products. Adding additional fuel to the fire was the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) attack on Kellogg, who claimed that Rice Krispies ‘helped support your child’s immunity.’ Dannon, Nestle and Bayer have also been the target of immunity claims litigation in recent years.
According to Gardener, “lots of firms make immunity type claims, and almost all of them are deceptive claims or illegal disease-prevention claims.”
Contradictory to the accusations made by the CSPI, are counter arguments proposed by Dr. Donald Cox. As the senior vice president of R&D business development, healthcare at Biothera, Dr. Cox acknowledged that immunity claims are permitted as long as they are backed by credible clinical research. According to Cox, “Immune health claims are permitted under DSHEA as long as these are backed by credible clinical research support… However, I do think that there are some ingredients used in some immune health products that are not science-based, that do not have a defined mechanism of action and that do not have adequate safety data.” Dr. Cox suggests that some of the these products may have immunity benefits, regardless of insufficient data.
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