Three Florida-based companies and their owners settled FTC charges they made false or unsubstantiated disease claims for dietary supplements targeting HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure and the common cold. The companies—NextGen Nutritionals LLC; Strictly Health Corp. LLC; and Cyber Business Technology LLC (CBT)—also allegedly used fake certification seals.
As part of the settlement, they admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to conditions prohibiting their use of false weight-loss and disease claims, as well as misrepresenting any results, tests, studies or ingredients associated with dietary supplements. An agreed upon penalty of US$1.34 million would be partially suspended upon payment of $29,000, due to the defendants reported inability to pay.
Robert and Anna Mclean, husband and wife, were also named as defendants, as Robert is the sole owner of NextGen and CBT, and Anna is the sole owner of Simply Health. They jointly manage and operate all three companies and were alleged to have participated, directed and/or controlled the activities listed in the FTC complaint.
At the center of the seven-count complaint are claims that allegedly violated the FTC Act, including:
- BioMazing HCG, containing the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG): “signal the brain’s hypothalamus to burn current body fat stores, and “this reaction means you will burn 1,500 to 4,000 calories of excess fat per day." FTC further noted the claims BioMazing HCG safely causes users to rapidly lose substantial weight, such as 1-2 pounds per day, and consumers who use the product would not feel hungry on a 500 calorie-per-day diet.
- Hoodoba appetite suppressant pills containing Hoodia gordonii: “is said to contain a powerful molecule that mimics glucose called P57, which signals your brain into thinking you are full and don’t need to eat;" FTC further noted claims the product causes users to rapidly lose substantial weight, such as 100 pounds in six months, 84 pounds in five months, 50 pounds in three months or 44 pounds in 10 weeks, with no adverse side effects.
- Fucoidan Force, a wakame seaweed and reishi mushroom extract: “helps fight off viral infections," “reduces cholesterol," relieves HIV, HSV, hepatitis C & D symptoms" and “reduces high blood pressure." FTC noted the product was touted for containing anti-cancer properties that cause cancer cell death and reduce the size of tumors.
- Immune Strong with Agaricus, containing 19 plant extracts: “works wonders against colds, flu (influenza) and viruses," and “combats deadly ailments and diseases including MS, HIV, AIDS and cancer."
- VascuVite, a combination of plant extracts and minerals: “Ingredients supported by scientific studies" would “lower your blood pressure naturally, now."
One of the additional issues for FTC was the defendants’ use of customer testimonials to support the violative claims. For instance, the complaint noted testimonials for Hoodoba, BioMazing HCG and VascuVite implied those consumers’ experiences represented the actual experiences of customers who use the products.
Beyond the benefit claims, the complaint alleged the defendants used a “Certified Ethical Site" seal on several websites. Consumers were encouraged to click on the seal to verify the certification—the link sent consumers to another website where the defendants’ sites were listed as “ethical" and “trustworthy" by the so-called Ethical Site, which was billed as “the most reliable evaluator of trust in the online marketplace." However, FTC alleged Ethical Site was not an independent certification website, but was owned and operated by the McLeans.