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Diet Marketer Takes On FTC

At least one diet company has been fighting back hard against the Federal Trade Commission's years-long crackdown on what it says are quack medical claims for dietary and other food supplements.

ITV Direct, which markets Supreme Greens and Sea Vegg, last year fought injunctions against its marketing of the products, then in early October countersued the FTC for harassment and free speech violations, and last week was in Washington to talk about a bill that would limited the FTC's power to pursue diet marketers over health claims the FTC says are bogus and even dangerous.

The FTC charged that ITV Direct and other marketers of seaweed-based supplements made illegally deceptive efficacy and safety claims for their products. It also said ITV tried to palm off a TV infomercial as independent programming. 

In its lawsuit seeking relief and damages, ITV said the FTC was selectively targeting the company and "allowing other companies that include similar product claims in their commercials to continue doing so unmolested."

It also took issue with the commission's “competent and reliable scientific evidence” standard for the marketing of natural remedies, calling it “unconstitutionally vague.”

At a Food and Drug Administration hearing on the issue last week, ITV Direct CEO Donald Barrett said the government "is targeting small marketing companies with frivolous lawsuits for false advertising in order to stomp out the promotion of natural remedies and silence [those companies'] criticism of the pharmaceutical industry."

The hearing was on a bill, the Health Freedom Protection Act, introduced earlier this month by a about a dozen House members, all Republicans except one, Democrat Peter Fazio of Oregon.

The bill would require, among other things, that the FTC establish proof "by a preponderance of  the evidence" that an ad is false or misleading before it launches a deceptive ad investigation into a health benefit claim. It would also "require FTC to prove that an ad is false and misleading and that it actually misleads consumers before FTC may hold an advertiser guilty of deceptive advertising," according to