FTC sues marketer of herbal extract over COVID-19 claims

According to a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit filed in California, beginning in or around March 2020, Marc Ching of Whole Leaf Organics began marketing Thrive as an “anti viral wellness booster” that treats, prevents or reduces the risk of COVID-19.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

April 28, 2020

2 Min Read
FTC sues marketer of herbal extract over COVID-19 claims

Federal regulators have sued a marketer of herbal extracts for allegedly claiming one of his products is effective at treating, preventing or reducing the risk of COVID-19.

Under a proposed preliminary order, Marc Ching, doing business as Whole Leaf Organics, has agreed to stop making the claims above, the Federal Trade Commission announced today in a news release. “Thrive,” the supplement targeted in the complaint, has a suggested retail price of $36.99 for 50 capsules and contains such ingredients as bilberry extract, ginger, Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), organic carrot, turmeric extract and Vitamin C.

According to the government’s complaint, beginning in or around March 2020, Ching began marketing Thrive as an “anti viral wellness booster” that treats, prevents or reduces the risk of COVID-19. Ching also falsely represented that Thrive’s benefits are clinically proven, the FTC alleged.

The complaint linked to an online advertisement, which characterized the ingredients as “clinically researched” and described Thrive as “the perfect way to strengthen your immunity against pathogens like ‘Covid-19,’ the coronavirus.” The ad recommended consumers take three capsules a day, and it described the product as “safe for daily short term use, and to combat … the flu, colds, bronchial infections, fungal and yeast based issues, as well as the coronavirus.”

Pending the resolution of a parallel administrative case filed by the FTC, the proposed order also bars Ching from claiming three CBD products effectively treat cancer. Since at least December 2018, through the Whole Leaf Organics website, Ching has sold three CBD-containing products, according to the FTC.

Ching "advertises all three CBD products as effective cancer treatments," the agency stated in its news release. The lawsuit, however, alleged Ching doesn't have the scientific evidence to substantiate his cancer-treatment claims, which renders them false or deceptive.

“There’s no proof that any product will prevent or treat COVID-19 or that any CBD product will treat cancer,” Andrew Smith, director of FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the news release. “Let’s be clear: companies making these claims can look forward to an FTC lawsuit like this one.”

The stipulation to a preliminary injunction was filed April 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Ching did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.




About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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