Natural Foods Merchandiser

Retailers urged not to sell or promote rip-off swine flu products

Opportunists took no time in taking full advantage of the H1N1 health crisis. Before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could calculate the possibility of a possible pandemic, cyber crooks took full advantage by spreading cyber viruses under the guise swine flu information. History shows from the bird flu scares that with any health crisis, electronic scams are followed by product rip-offs. Retailers are urged not to support the growing number of hyped-up products.

The dietary supplement industry is taking swift action with a statement to disassociate itself from product scams and is calling for retailers and manufacturers to refuse stock and refrain from outrageous marketing claims.

In late April, MCaffee Avert Labs noticed a momentous spike in swine flu spam emails as well as swine flu URLs. Attached to these swine flu URLs is plethora of products from essential oils to nasal filters touting their ability to treat or prevent contracting H1N1. Dietary supplement leaders are urging marketers and retailers to refuse to stock or sell any supplements that are presented as treating or curing swine flu."We are unaware of any scientific data supporting the use of dietary supplements to treat swine flu. Furthermore, federal law does not allow dietary supplements to claim to treat any diseases, including swine flu," according to a combined statement from the American Herbal Products Association, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Natural Products Association.

"Consumers who purchase products to treat the novel 2009 H1N1 virus that are not approved, cleared or authorized by the FDA for the treatment or prevention of influenza risk their health and the health of their families," said Michael Chappell, acting FDA Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs. "In conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission, the FDA has developed an aggressive strategy to identify, investigate, and take regulatory or criminal action against individuals or businesses that wrongfully promote purported 2009 H1N1 influenza products in an attempt to take advantage of the current flu public health emergency."

AHPA, CHPA, CRN and NPA are therefore endorsing the following unified advisory for marketers and retailers, as well as for consumers of dietary supplements:

  • Marketers and retailers of dietary supplements are urged to refuse to stock or sell any supplements that are presented as treating or curing swine flu, and
  • Marketers and retailers should refrain from promoting any dietary supplement as a cure or treatment for swine flu.
  • Anyone who believes they may have swine flu or may have come in contact with the virus should contact a healthcare professional. More information on swine flu and the proper actions to take if you suspect you are ill is available on the CDC Web site:

All four organizations say that while dietary supplements that have much to offer in terms of enhancing general immune function, therapies for the treatment of swine flu should only be recommended by qualified healthcare professionals or public health authorities.

The organizations supporting this advisory represent the majority of dietary supplement manufacturers. Each of the associations and its member companies remain committed to providing the American public with high quality products for supporting personal health and permitting "self-care" choices. Each of the associations is also committed to recognizing that there are some health conditions for which the choice of self-care should be actively discouraged. The current global outbreak of swine flu is such a condition.

If you receive suspicious e-mails, do not open them or their attachments, delete the e-mail or report it to the Federal Trade Commission by forwarding it to [email protected].

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