US supplements industry to police false claims

A major US supplements-industry trade group has launched a campaign to better police misleading claims made about supplement products.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), in conjunction with the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD), has instigated the project, which will appropriate funds to better scrutinise and challenge claims where appropriate.

NAD is the investigative and judicial arm of the National Advertising Review Council, the advertising industry's self-regulatory body, and it reviews advertisements that are national in scope, including those in print, broadcast, infomercials and the Internet.

Currently, supplements claims are jointly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission, two organisations that have given their approval to the initiative. "The FTC strongly supports effective self-regulation," said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Industry members have a real opportunity to learn from NAD decisions and build consumer confidence."

In a statement, CRN said: "The initiative has been developed to … address not only comparative advertising claims among makers of dietary supplements, but also substantive claims that are deceptive or misleading and clearly go beyond what's supported by research and allowed by law … claims that feed the public's distrust of the supplement industry."

CRN has set aside funding to enable NAD to employ an attorney dedicated to the claims made by supplement products. It expects the number of case reviews to increase three-fold as a result.

"Like all industries, we rely on the bond of trust between consumer and marketer. That bond has been stretched by companies that are clearly ignoring advertising laws that exist to protect the public as well as responsible companies that abide by those laws," said Steve Mister, president and chief executive officer of CRN. "While CRN has taken individual actions in the past to stop particularly egregious advertising claims, we felt it was time to become even more proactive to protect our industry's image. This initiative will help ensure our industry's customers can have faith that the advertising they see is truthful and not misleading."

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