When does “pixie dusting” become just plain old lying?
I was reflecting on this in light of the news that NBTY Inc. had come to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over deceptive advertising claims. The complaint by the FTC dealt with claims made on multivitamins for children sold under the Disney and Marvel Complete brands in both tablet and gummi forms.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the labels of these products claimed on the front “contains DHA. ” On the side label was the following message: “*DHA is naturally found in the brain and the eyes. 100 mg promotes healthy brain and eye development.** One tablet provides 100 mcg of DHA. “
So, in other words, NBTY put in one thousandth of an effective dose advertised on the front-of-pack labeling, and hoped that consumers would miss the “c” in “mcg.” Or the company was banking that shoppers hadn’t paid attention in high school chemistry class and wouldn’t understand what the abbreviations meant, anyway.
Here is the company’s description of itself from its Web site: “NBTY is a global vertically integrated manufacturer, marketer and distributor of a broad line of high-quality, value-priced nutritional supplements.”
Are “high-quality” and “value-priced” mutually exclusive in the case of NBTY? This is a company that notched $2.6 billion in net sales in 2009, and posted a $2.30 per share profit, even though the company called that year “a rollercoaster” in its annual report. So clearly they have the resources to do things right, if they so choose.
But they don’t choose, or at least, they didn’t in this case.
NBTY, for its part, issued the following statement following the FDA announcement: “This resolution reaffirms our commitment to labeling transparency and adherence to the highest standards of regulatory compliance.”
What sticks in one’s craw here is that we’re not talking about putting cheaper rubber into a car tire so that it only gets 40,000 miles of wear instead of 50,000. We’re talking about lying to parents concerning the health of their children. Yes, no kids were harmed by taking these supplements. That’s assuming, too, that there was nothing else wrong with these products. Considering NBTY’s truthfulness on the DHA issue, how do you feel about trusting them on statements of safety and purity?
We here at Functional Ingredients and New Hope are adamant about the quality of what goes into dietary supplements. Indeed, we’ve put together The 10 Commandents of Ingredient Sourcing. NBTY violated the third: Thou shalt not pixie dust.