FTC Sues Marketers of Green Coffee Extract

The marketers touted the dietary supplement via fake news websites, through paid testimonials and by making unsubstantiated weight-loss claims, according to the agency.

WASHINGTON—The FTC has sued marketers of green coffee extract who sought to capitalize on favorable coverage from a popular TV show hosted by Mehmet Oz.

The marketers touted the dietary supplement via fake news websites, through paid testimonials and by making unsubstantiated weight-loss claims, according to the agency in a news release.  

In an April 26, 2012 segment of The Dr. Oz Show, the celebrity health guru Dr. Oz referenced a study in which individuals “lost an astounding amount of fat and weight—17 pounds in 22 weeks—by doing absolutely nothing extra in their day," according to a lawsuit FTC filed against the defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Just weeks later, FTC said, the defendants began selling Pure Green Coffee extract for roughly $50 for a one-month supply. According to the lawsuit, the defendants have sold more than 536,000 bottles of product since May 2012.

FTC charged the defendants with making false and unsupported advertising claims that consumers using the product could shed 20 pounds in four weeks, 16 percent of body fat in 12 weeks and 30 pounds and four-to-six inches of belly blubber in three to five months. FTC also claims the defendants advertised their product through fake news websites from such fictitious organizations as Women’s Health Journal and Healthy Living Reviewed, and appropriated logos from legitimate news organizations such as CNN and MSNBC.  According to the agency, the phony websites featured footage from The Dr. Oz Show on green coffee extract.

“Not only did these defendants trick consumers with their phony weight loss claims, they also compounded the deception by advertising on pretend news sites, making it impossible for people to know whether they were seeing news or an ad," said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement.

The defendants presented video testimonials on Pure Green Coffee websites but failed to disclose that the individuals did not buy the product and were paid $200 for their endorsements, according to FTC.

“So, I used to be very self-conscious about my body and my weight. I have been very frustrated and I’ve tried everything from juice diets to all sorts of diet pills, but just nothing seemed to work. And I was just about ready to give up," one person said in a video quoted by the FTC’s lawsuit. “But I decided, you know, I should give Pure Green Coffee a try since it’s 100 percent natural and I thought I had nothing to lose. And let me tell you, this stuff is amazing. I mean, wow. I’ve just lost 15 pounds so far, and I’ve been eating more fruits and veggies and I’ve been going to the gym about four times a week. So, I guess it’s actually working because I’ve never felt better and I now fit into my old jeans."

Flawed Study

FTC also claimed a weight-loss study funded by a manufacturer of green coffee antioxidant and upon which the defendants relied was severely flawed. The study described a trial in Bangalore, India that involved 16 overweight subjects. According to the study, participants lost, on average, 17.7 pounds, 10.5 percent of their body weight, and 16 percent of their body fat.

But FTC said participants lost most of their weight—on average 10.5 pounds—while they were not taking any green coffee antioxidant capsules.

“Second, the steepest weight loss occurred during the first washout period in a group that had not yet ingested any GCA. These flaws undermine the reliability of all of the study data," FTC declared in the lawsuit. 

FTC also pointed out a number of other flaws in the study including “failure to document how the subjects and administrators were blinded given that subjects were instructed to take a different number of capsules (two a day) for the low-dose GCA, compared to the high-dose GCA and placebo (three a day); and its failure to disclose whether the subjects exercised during the study."

The complaint names a number of defendants, including NPB Advertising (d/b/a Pure Green Coffee), which marketed the product to consumers throughout the United States and also conducted business as Bungo Media, Quest Laboratories, GreenCoffee8884963810, and Nation Wide Ventures. NPB Advertising has a principal address in Tampa, Fla. according to the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations. Natural Products INSIDER could not immediately find a contact number for the company.

As of Monday, none of the defendants had filed an answer to FTC’s lawsuit, according to electronic court records.

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