Bogus Ebola virus supplements reminiscent of H1N1 scare

Bogus Ebola virus supplements reminiscent of H1N1 scare

Will this latest outbreak have a similar effect on the immune health market?

Ebola virus has dominated headlines over the past several months, allowing for unsavory supplement sellers to dupe consumers with illegal "cures."

In September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to Utah-based Young Living and New Jersey-based Natural Solutions Foundation for bogus claims on their supplement products. The companies' websites included such ludicrous statements as:



  • "Viruses (including Ebola) are no match for Young Living Essential Oils"

An industry coalition of five major dietary supplement trade organizations—the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the Natural Products Association (NPA) and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA)—responded with a joint press release on Oct. 7 that warns marketers and retailers against selling or stocking supplements that purport to cure, treat or prevent the Ebola virus.

"If a brand makes a claim that sounds too good to be true, it is," said Dan Fabricant, PhD, head of NPA.

The situation harks back to the 2009-2010 cold and flu season, when the H1N1 (swine flu) scare had consumers scrambling to retailers for immune health products. As the country dipped into recession, immune health products saw sales growth hit double digits that winter, according to Nutrition Business Journal. (Immune health remains one of the largest dietary supplement categories, and grew nearly 8 percent last year to $2.4 billion.)

So will the Ebola craze add an artificial boost to immunity supplements this season? It's unlikely, given that the incidence rate in the U.S. is inconsequential and the companies taking advantage are so far out on the fringe.

"This isn't us," said Fabricant of his member companies and industry at large. "These are folks engaged in criminal behavior. And they're not reporting their sales results to SPINS."

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