April 27, 2011
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is requesting federal courts temporarily halt the allegedly deceptive tactics of 10 operations using fake news websites to market açai berry weight-loss products. The FTC seeks to permanently stop this misleading practice and has asked courts to freeze the operations’ assets pending trial.
According to the FTC, the defendants operate websites that are meant to appear as if they belong to legitimate newsgathering organizations, but in reality the sites are simply advertisements aimed at deceptively enticing consumers to buy the featured açai berry weight-loss products from other merchants.
The FTC complaints allege that typical fake news sites have titles such as “News 6 News Alerts,” “Health News Health Alerts” or “Health 5 Beat Health News.” The sites often include the names and logos of major media outlets—such as ABC, Fox News, CBS, CNN, USA Today and Consumer Reports—and falsely represent that the reports on the sites have been seen on these networks.
“Almost everything about these sites is fake,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The weight-loss results, the so-called investigations, the reporters, the consumer testimonials and the attempt to portray an objective, journalistic endeavor.”
The FTC charges that the defendants make false and unsupported claims that açai berry supplements will cause rapid and substantial weight loss. The FTC also charges that the defendants deceptively represent that their websites are objective news reports, performed independent tests demonstrate the effectiveness of the product, that the comments following the “articles” on their websites reflect the views of independent consumers, and fail to disclose their financial relationships to the merchants selling the products (site operators are paid a commission for all click-throughs from their fake news sites to merchants’ sites).
The FTC will ask the courts to permanently bar the allegedly deceptive claims, and to require the companies to provide money for refunds to consumers who purchased the supplements and other products.
The FTC has a new consumer alert to help consumers recognize and avoid deceptive claims made by fake news sites that market açai berries for weight loss. It also has a new video detailing the risks of free trials, which often are used to market açai berry supplements and other products.
For more information, visit www.ftc.gov.
Leading members of the gluten-free community will come together on May 4, to build the world’s largest gluten-free cake as part of the “1 in 33” effort to draw attention to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) delay in finalizing standards for gluten-free food labeling. The name is derived from the fact that at least one in every 133 people in the U.S. suffers from celiac disease.
To kick off Celiac Awareness Month, the 1 in 133 event will be hosted at the Washington, DC, Embassy Suites Convention Center and will culminate with a reception for federal lawmakers, concerned members and friends of the gluten-free community and gluten-free food manufacturers.
With guest speakers and information on a petition advocating for the FDA to take action on determining a gluten-free food-labeling standard, the 1 in 133 event will reinforce the need for such standards. “This is a very serious autoimmune disease,” said Dr. Alessio Fasano of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. “It deserves equally serious food labeling laws.”
For more information, visit www.1in133.org
The organic industry grew at a rate of nearly eight percent in 2010, bucking the current trend whereby “flat is the new growth” for many other segments of the economy. Further, some sectors of the organic market enjoyed annual growth of well over 30 percent, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) recently revealed in releasing findings from its 2011 Organic Industry Survey. In 2010, the organic industry grew to over $28.6 billion.
Experiencing the most growth, organic fruits and vegetables, which represent 39.7 percent of total organic food value, and nearly 12 percent of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales, reached nearly $10.6 billion in 2010 (up 11.8 percent from 2009 performance). Organic dairy, the second-largest category, experienced nine percent growth to achieve a value of $3.9 billion, and captured nearly six percent of the total U.S. market for dairy products.
“While total U.S. food sales grew by less than one percent in 2010, the organic food industry grew by 7.7 percent,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s CEO and executive director. “Consumers continue to vote with their dollars in favor of the organic choice. These results illustrate the positive contribution organic agriculture and trade make to our economy, and particularly to rural livelihoods.”
In the organic non-food sector, organic supplements led with a value of $681 million, representing 7.4 percent growth over 2009 figures. Organic fiber (linen and clothing) totaled a value of $605 million, achieving 16 percent year-over-year growth. Personal care products, at $490 million, increased 6.6 percent from 2009.
For more information, visit www.ota.com
Fair Trade USA, a third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S., invites Americans to enjoy a Fair Trade Breakfast in honor of World Fair Trade Day on Saturday, May 14.
Only one-third of Americans are aware of Fair Trade as an opportunity to align their purchasing habits with their values by supporting products that help to improve lives and alleviate poverty for more than five million people in farming communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America. This is why Fair Trade USA is asking Americans to have a Fair Trade breakfast on World Fair Trade Day to help “Wake up the World” to the benefits of Fair Trade.
“We’re not asking for big change,” said Paul Rice, president and CEO of Fair Trade USA, “just small every day changes—switching a cup of coffee, a banana, a chocolate bar to one that’s Fair Trade Certified—to empower both consumers to make a difference and farmers to improve their lives and plan for a better future. It’s great to wake up every day and know that you’re part of a movement that has the power to change the world.
For more information, visit www.fairtradeusa.org.
On April 20, the British Medical Journal published a meta-analysis on the use of calcium supplements. The study’s conclusion suggested that calcium supplements may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Dr. Cara Welch, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association (NPA), addressed concerns noted in recent media stories about the analysis.
“We saw this same flawed analysis last year with some slight changes, but we’re still looking at a meta-analysis of other studies. The eight studies that were included last time weren’t originally set up to look at cardiovascular events, and the women’s health initiative calcium/vitamin D supplementation study reported ‘no adverse effect of calcium and vitamin D…on any cardiovascular end point.’ This latest analysis does not present compelling evidence against calcium and vitamin D, and in fact, there are many more studies touting the beneficial effects for both.
“We have seen over and over the argument that Americans can get all the nutrients they need from a balanced diet. But the fact is, most don’t. We hope that all individuals who use calcium supplements for bone health, and especially those under the direction of a physician, will continue their supplementation and not be swayed by this flawed analysis.”
For more information, visit www.npainfo.org.
The American Botanical Council (ABC) will celebrate the sixth annual HerbDay with presentations from herbal and gardening experts, including John Dromgoole, owner of The Natural Gardener, Austin, TX’s premier organic gardening center. The celebration will occur on Sunday, May 1, from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at ABC’s headquarters at 6200 Manor Road in Austin, TX, and is free and open to the public.
Beginning at 10:30, ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal will welcome HerbDay guests and share some new information on the continued growth of the herb market in the U.S.
In addition to the opportunity to stroll around ABC’s 30 demonstration herb gardens, guests can enjoy several instructional herb walks and talks. From 11-11:30 a.m., Dr. Yaoping (Violet) Song, faculty member of the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin, will discuss the uses of traditional Chinese herbs. Ayurvedic herbs from the ancient traditional medicine of India will be elaborated on from 11:30 a.m.-12 p.m. by Charlotte Jernigan, a certified Ayurveda practitioner with the National Ayurveda Medical Association.
At noon, John Dromgoole, radio personality and Austin’s most well-known organic gardening advocate, will address climate changes in Central Texas gardening.
The Texas Chapter of the American Herbalists Guild will close out ABC’s HerbDay celebration with a tea tasting. Books, membership information, and sample issues of ABC’s colorful quarterly, peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram will also be available.
For more information, visit www.herbday.org.