by Marion Nestle
Dec 15 2010

FTC goes after kids’ vitamin claims (yogurt, too!)

In its continuing effort to crack down on companies making deceptive claims that omega-3 promotes healthy brain and eye development in children, the FTC has just announced deceptive advertising charges against NBTY, a marketer of children’s vitamins.

In February, the FTC  issued warning letters to 11 companies that make products like this one (“pediatrician recommended,” yet).

The FTC said the companies had better get busy and make sure they are not violating the law by “making baseless claims about how the supplements benefit children’s brain and vision function and development.”

The FTC cautioned the companies to make sure they had:

“scientific evidence to support claims that their products boost, improve, enhance, or support brain and vision function and development in children…[and]claims relating to intelligence, cognitive function, learning ability, focus, mood, memory, attention, concentration, visual acuity, and eye health.”

Now, the FTC has reached a settlement with the companies for $2.1 million in refunds, not only because of the unsupported health claims but also because the products did not contain the advertised amount of omega-3′s (see legal complaint):

the multivitamins featured characters such as the Disney Princesses, Winnie the Pooh, Finding Nemo, and Spider-Man.  Product packaging and print ads promoting the vitamins had bold graphics highlighting that the products contained DHA, but in reality, the products allegedly had only a trace amount of DHA.

While the vitamins’ packaging touted the purported health benefits of 100 milligrams of DHA, a daily serving of the Disney and Marvel multivitamins for children ages four years and older contained only one thousandth of that amount (0.1 mg or 100 mcg), according to the FTC’s complaint.

The settlement:

  • Bars NBTY, NatureSmart, and Rexall Sundown from misrepresenting the amount of any ingredient contained in any product.
  • Bars them from misrepresenting that any ingredient, including DHA, promotes brain or eye health or provides any other health benefit, unless the claim is true and backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
  • Specifies that any violations could subject the NBTY, NatureSmart, and Rexall Sundown to civil penalties.
I wonder if the FTC is taking a look at the DHA “brain development” claims for Nestlé’s Juice Juice?  Just a thought.
This just in: The FTC announces a settlement with Dannon Yogurt to stop making unsubstantiated, exaggerated health claims for activia.  Dannon may no longer claim that:
  • Any yogurt, dairy drink, or probiotic food or drink reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu (unless FDA says it’s OK)
  • Activia yogurt will relieve temporary irregularity or help with slow intestinal transit time, unless the ad conveys that three servings of Activia yogurt must be eaten each day.
  • Any other yogurt, dairy drink, or probiotic food or drink will relieve temporary irregularity or help with slow intestinal transit time unless the company has two well-designed human clinical studies that substantiate the claim.
  • The health benefits, performance, or efficacy of any yogurt, dairy drink, or probiotic food or drink, unless the claims are backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

The FTC wants science to back up health claims.  What a concept!


  • JE
  • December 15, 2010
  • 11:42 am

I’m glad the FTC is holding companies accountable for misrepresenting the amount of ingredients contained in products. But it’s regrettable the FTC won’t allow companies to inform the public what the research shows, i.e., that good nutrition is essential for brain development. For many kids, supplements may be the only way to get adequate amounts of these nutrients.



[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nicole Nichols, said: Blogfeed: FTC goes after kids’ vitamin claims: The FTC has just followed up on its complaints against companies … [...]

  • Anthro
  • December 15, 2010
  • 4:29 pm

Your references are not science, just more of the same that the FDA is trying to stop.

Anyone who can afford supplements, can afford to feed a child adequate food.

I only wish the FDA was doing more than sending letters. Let’s just hope these unscrupulous companies get the message and desist without further ado.

  • JudyThomas
  • December 15, 2010
  • 5:07 pm

‘Bout time! We had 8 + years of industry-written “regulation” of food and supplements and this is refreshing!

  • JE
  • December 15, 2010
  • 6:15 pm

@Anthro, the study title of the first link in my previous comment:

Three Randomized Controlled Trials of Early Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation on Means-End Problem Solving in 9-Month-Olds:

This is not science? Please explain. Here’s another randomized, controlled study:

DHA in Infant Formula Improves Vision:

  • Mary
  • December 16, 2010
  • 8:11 pm

Oh, that’s so cute–pretending you are appreciative of science for claims that are made.

If only your twitter account held the same standards….

Leave a comment