McCaskill Sets Witness List for Weight Loss Marketing Hearing

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chair of the Senate Consumer Protection subcommittee, has set the witnesses for her June 17 hearing on deceptive weight-loss marketing, and syndicated talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz, chairman and professor of Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, is clearly the star witness.

Oz's participation has been the subject of no fewer than three press advisories in the past week from the senator's office (plus a follow-up call to make sure the message had gotten out).

The most recent notice on June 16 said McCaskill (pictured) "will quiz TV show host Dr. Mehmet Oz in a hearing on Tuesday regarding his role in the deceptive marketing of weight-loss products."  The Federal Trade Commission last month announced it was filing suit against Pure Green Coffee alleging it was making bogus weight loss claims about the product. The FTC also pointed out that the product had been "popularized on the syndicated talk show, The Dr. Oz Show."

"Green coffee bean extract was popularized by the syndicated talk show host, Dr. Oz, as a 'miracle' weight loss treatment that supposedly burns fat," McCaskill's office said in promoting the hearing. "The FTC claimed that weeks after green coffee was promoted on the Dr. Oz Show, Pure Green Coffee began selling their Pure Green Coffee extract, charging $50 for a one-month supply."

According to a spokesperson for TheDr. Oz Show, they met with the committee last week about the hearing. Tim Sullivan, director of publicity for the show, said he was glad the Senate was looking at the issue, saying the scammers will excerpt the show without including any of the risks or questions posted, then use those excerpts to market the product. "No matter what conversations you have with the consumer, someone stands to gain by engaging in illicit behavior. We see the committee as sharing our mission. We want to protect the viewers, they want to protect the consumer."

Oz joined with his mentor Oprah Winfrey to sue various dietary supplement marketers back in 2009 for using their names and images without permission.

Also testifying Tuesday are Mary Koelbel Engle, associate director, division of advertising practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission; Dr. C. Lee Peeler, president, Advertising Self-Regulatory Council, and EVP, Council of Better Business Bureaus; Steven Mister, president, Council for Responsible Nutrition; Robert Hatton Haralson IV, executive director,; and Daniel Fabricant, executive director, Natural Products Association.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.