FTC Cracks Down on Deceptive Health Claims « The Washington Independent
The Federal Trade Commission just announced a proposed settlement with BOOST Kid Essentials, a Nestle subsidiary it charged with making deceptive health claims about its products:
The advertisements challenged by the FTC featured the drink’s probiotic straw. In one ad, the straw jumped out of the drink box, formed a protective barrier around a girl as she encountered a sneezing boy, and then formed steps allowing her to reach a basketball hoop and shoot a ball into the net.
The ads falsely claimed that BOOST Kid Essentials is clinically shown to reduce illness in children, to protect from colds and flu by strengthening the immune system, and to help children up to age 13 recover more quickly from diarrhea, the FTC charged.
The FTC’s announcement of the charges against the Nestle subsidiary come on the heels of strict new standards released by the FTC and the FDA to regulate junk food marketing to children aged 2 to 17. Under the Obama administration, the FTC has taken an increased interest in the food industry — a domain it has generally left to the FDA in the past. Just last month, it scolded Kellogg for claiming its Rice Krispies can boost children’s immunity and banned the company from “making claims about any health benefit of any food unless the claims are backed by scientific evidence and not misleading.”
For years, the industry has claimed it can police itself, with less than desirable results. For instance, the much touted “Smart Choices” food labeling campaign was so trigger-happy with its check marks that it bestowed the honor on everything from Froot Loops to Fudgsicles:
Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, was part of a panel that helped devise the Smart Choices nutritional criteria, until he quit last September. He said the panel was dominated by members of the food industry, which skewed its decisions. [...]
“You could start out with some sawdust, add calcium or Vitamin A and meet the criteria,” Mr. Jacobson said.
On the inclusion of Froot Loops, Dr. Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices board, argued at the time: “You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal. So Froot Loops is a better choice.”