FTC cracks down on children's supplements

Eleven companies are feeling the heat after the Federal Trade Commission sent letters recently encouraging manufactures to review product packaging and labeling claims. Specifically under the gun? Omega-3 supplements to benefit children’s brain and vision function. The FTC wants scientific evidence to support claims that the products boost, improve, enhance or support brain and vision function development in children. Without it, the FTC says the companies may be in violation of the FTC Act.

Of the myriad children’s supplements with omega-3 claims on the market, why specifically have these 11 companies been flagged? Is the FTC targeting those with far-reaching marketing campaigns? Is it that the specific language of their claims is misleading, or is the science on omega-3’s not strong enough as it relates to children? Turns out, it’s a little bit of all three. “It’s the language of the claims, it’s their presence in the market, but we also need to see how these products actually affect the children who are intended to consume them,” says Devin Demond, staff attorney for the FTC. Currently, supplements are regulated by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.

Companies have two weeks to respond with steps they’ve taken or intend to take to comply with regulations. In the meantime, retailers may prepare to clear some shelf space. Considering the numerous studies conducted on EFAs, the FTC seems to be calling for product-specific trials—which may be tough for manufacturers to produce in a short period of time. When the FTC conducted an investigation into similar claims made by Northwest Naturals Products, Inc., makers of L’il Critters Omega-3 Gummy Fish, the company changed all marketing materials.

When it comes to product claims for children, do you think borrowed literature on particular ingredients should suffice, or are additional age-specific studies always needed?

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