15 Products Nailed for Making Bogus Health Claims
HealthCentral Editorial Team Jun 12, 2012 (updated Oct 9, 2013)
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POM Pomegranate products claimed that its products could treat, prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. Unfortunately, none of those claims could be backed by scientific research. POM was sued by the FTC in 2012 and forced to pull the advertisements making these claims.
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Weight loss pills
In 2008, the FTC sued a number of manufacturers for selling a product that claimed to cause users to lose weight without dieting or exercise. Zyladex Plus, Questral AC, Questial AC Fat Killer Plus, Rapid Loss 245 and Rapid Loss Rx were targeted; apparently claims that users could lose up to 15 pounds in a week were unfounded. The companies were forced to pay back customers and were banned from making future deceptive advertisements.
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We've all seen the ads for the "toning shoes," where wearing them in every day life would tone muscles and help wearers lose weight. Unfortunately, there is no medical evidence of this. Reebok was ordered to pay $25 million in customer refunds over its EasyTone and RunTone shoes.
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Just like Reebok, Skechers was also sued over its toning shoes. The FTC ordered the brand to pay back $40 million in customer refunds over its Shape-Up shoes. Losing weight and getting fit takes more than just wearing a funny-looking shoe; who knew?
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Along with misleading advertisements for weight loss or fitness, Extenze natural male enhancement also bit the bullet for deceptive advertising. Contrary to what its spokesman NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson says, Extenze does not help … um … enhance a man's credentials. The company paid $6 million to settle the case.
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Marketed as a cold prevention and treatment remedy, Airborne, in fact, does not reduce the severity or duration of colds or provide any tangible benefit for people who are exposed to germs in crowded places. An elementary school teacher developed it, the advertisements tout. Unless the teacher was a world-renowned chemist, you shouldn't buy in.
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Though this one may fall under the common sense category, the company's claims were still deceptive. Nutella is indisputably delicious; however, when marketed as part of a healthy breakfast, the waters get murky. After feeding children Nutella and seeing unhealthy results, two mothers have sued the company for deception in advertising. And they won the case.
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Acai berry diet pills
Diet and exercise are the keys to losing weight. Not a funky pair of shoes. Not a bunch of pills. However, the acai berry diet pill advertisements got in trouble for using fictional "news reports" to promote the benefits of the product. With headlines such as "New 6 News Alerts," "Health News Health Alerts" and "Health 5 Beat Health News," the FTC cracked down and put a stop to 10 operators of these fake news sites.
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Oreck vacuum cleaners
$750,000 for a vacuum cleaner seems pretty steep, doesn't it? Oreck was ordered to pay that amount after the FTC fingered the company for using "misleading claims" that its Oreck ProShield Plus air cleaner and Oreck Halo vacuum could prevent illness. The products were claimed to "capture and destroy many airborne viruses like the flu" and that "the Oreck Halo has killed up to 99.9 percent of bacteria." Unfortunately, these claims were completely untrue.
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When Jamie Lee Curtis and Sally Field say it's good for you, that can't be an exaggerated claim, can it? Despite the celebrity endorsements, Dannon, the maker of Activia, settled with the FTC in 2010 and agreed to drop advertisements claiming the benefits of "probiotics." DanActive dairy drink was also blasted for its bogus probiotics claims.
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In 2009, cereal maker Kellogg was nailed for saying that Frosted Mini-Wheats improved children's attention by nearly 20 percent. According to the research, only half of the children tested had improved attention, and only one in 20 had a 20 percent increase in attention. Though the causes of inattention in children are debatable, this advertising campaign was undeniably inaccurate.
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First, it was Frosted Mini-Wheats supposedly improving attention. This time, it was because packaging claimed that Rice Krispies were beneficial to a child's immune system. "Kellogg's Rice Krispies has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy," the cereal box proclaimed, but, as one may imagine, the claims were completely false. Kellogg needs a new marketing division.
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Who are NBTY, Inc., NatureSmart LLC and Rexall Sundown, Inc.? These culprits tried to sell multivitamins licensed with Marvel superheroes and Disney characters while making deceptive statements about Omega-3 fatty acids in the gummies and tablets. The company touted the presence of DHA, an Omega-3, but studies found that the vitamins had only trace amounts of the substance. Oops!
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BOOST Kid Essentials came under fire when advertisements claimed that this product had probiotics that would prevent kids from getting sick or missing school. You may recall Activia/Dannon getting in trouble for probiotics; Nestlé's case faired no differently. The company was forced to drop the advertising as the claims did not check out.
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Flavors highlighted defense, rescue and endurance, but in reality they are far from healthy. Vitamin Water was nailed under the 'Jelly Bean' rule "which prohibits companies from making health claims on junk foods that only meet various nutrient thresholds via fortification," according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.