August 17, 2000
WASHINGTON--In early August, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a complaint and sent a notice order to Natural Organics Inc. and its owner, Gerald Kessler, for making unsubstantiated claims on its "Pedi-Active A.D.D." product. The Melville, N.Y.-based company [which does business under the "Nature's Plus" label, www.naturesplus.com] made claims that its product could treat or lessen symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). [ADHD is similar to another, more commonly known disorder, called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).]
According to the FTC, Natural Organics could not substantiate the claims it made relating to improved scholastic performance, increased attention span, and controlled ADHD symptoms. Evidently, the labeling claims were echoed in the company's advertising. Advertisements for the product claimed that ADHD children taking it could increase their scholastic performance and attention span--hallmarks of ADHD, which affects approximately 2.5 million children in the United States.
After the complaint was issued, the FTC sent a notice order to the company that prohibits it from making the claims. The notice order also prohibits the company from using "A.D.D." [or any other name that suggests it can inhibit ADHD symptoms] in the sale of Pedi-Active or any similar product, unless the company establishes a reasonable basis for making the claims.
Gerald Kessler, chief executive officer of Natural Organics, said the company has the reasonable basis to make the claims. According to Kessler, there are scientific studies that support them. "We have asked the FTC to have their experts meet with our experts to determine the validity of studies," he said. "They have refused to allow this to happen."Natural Organics' vice president James Gibbons concurred. "We continuously requested that the FTC have its scientists sit down with our scientists to determine the objectivity of all the studies that validate Pedi-Active." According to the company, it has submitted documentation to the FTC, including 18 double-blind studies that support the product's efficacy.
However, according to an FTC spokesperson, this product is not an appropriate treatment for children with ADHD. "ADHD is a serious condition, and parents who are concerned about it should talk to their children's doctors about appropriate treatment," said Jodie Bernstein, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC. "Consumers should be able to rely on advertising for solid information when they're making purchasing decisions. If they can't trust the claims in the ads, they're in a tough spot, particularly parents who are trying to do the best for their kids."
Kessler noted that ADD is not really a disease, rather, it's a group of symptoms. Many of the children that suffer from ADD are quite gifted, and Pedi-Active affords them a chemical-free way to control their symptoms. "This is all about principle, not money," he said. "Upon resolution of this issue, we will donate 100 percent of the profits derived from sales of Pedi-Active A.D.D. for research to help children with the symptoms commonly referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder."
The FTC issues complaints when it has "reason to believe" that the law is being violated. It is not a finding or ruling; rather, it is made to protect the public interest. In this case, the company must not make any other claims for the health benefits of any other products, unless they are supported by scientific evidence. In addition, the company will be monitored by the FTC in order to establish compliance with its notice order. To view a copy of the complaint and the notice order, visit www.ftc.gov.
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