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FTC Fines 4 Diet-Supplement Makers for False Advertising

As part of an initiative to curb deceptive advertising in the weight loss product industry, the FTC imposed hefty fines on four diet supplement companies. The FTC will make these funds available for refunds to consumers who bought the products. In total, the weight-loss marketers will pay approximately $34 million for consumer redress.

Here's a breakdown of the four companies involved and how much they'll be "forking" over:

  • Sensa. The marketers of the powdered food additive Sensa -- who urged consumers to “sprinkle, eat, and lose weight” -- will pay $26.5 million to settle FTC charges for making unfounded weight-loss claims and misleading endorsements. Marketers deceptively advertised that Sensa enhances food’s smell and taste, making users feel full faster, so they eat less and lose weight, without dieting, and without changing their exercise regime.
  • L’Occitane. The FTC will require L'Occitane to pay $450,000 and stop making deceptive claims that its Almond Beautiful Shape and Almond Shaping Delight skin creams have body slimming capabilities ("Trim 1.3 inches in just 4 weeks!”) and are clinically proven (“Clinically proven slimming effectiveness.”).
  • HCG Diet Direct. The marketers of HCG Diet Direct Drops deceptively advertised an unproven human hormone (found in human placenta) that has been "touted by hucksters for more than half a century as a weight-loss treatment," according to the FTC. Marketers made false claims of rapid weight loss via YouTube videos, product packaging, and in statements and testimonials on the company website. The company also falsely claimed that the product was FDA-approved and failed to disclose that endorsers in some of the ads were compensated. But the $3.2 million judgment against the HCG Diet Direct defendants was suspended due to their inability to pay.
  • LeanSpa. The FTC and the state of Connecticut shut down owner Boris Mizhen’s operation, including LeanSpa and three other companies he controls. Mizhen used fake news websites to promote acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight-loss products, made deceptive weight-loss claims, and misled consumers about the actual costs of the "free" trials. LeanSpa will surrender assets totaling an estimated $7.3 million in a partial settlement with the FTC.

Although the FTC is doing its best to trim the false advertising fat in the diet product industry, consumers should sprinkle some common sense into their diet plans. If a fad diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Even on a carb-free diet, don't forget to use your noodle.

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