Natural Foods Merchandiser

The latest scoop on supps and cosmetic regulations

Supply Expo attendees got a primer on Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission supplements and cosmetic regulations during Saturday morning’s “Live from D.C.: It’s Make Your Claims Right!” session.

Moderator Ivan Wassermann, partner with the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, hosted a game-show format along with Gary Coody, national health fraud coordinator for the FDA, and Christine Lee DeLorme, attorney with the FTC’s division of advertising practices. Information included:

  • The FDA has primary jurisdiction over claims made on labels, labeling and the Internet—anything that accompanies the sale of the product.

  • The FTC has primary jurisdiction over claims made in all print and broadcast advertising and on the Internet, and has secondary jurisdiction over product labeling.

  • From an FDA standpoint, a dietary supplement can claim to affect the structure or function of the body, but not treat, prevent, mitigate or cure a disease or reduce a symptom of a disease (like cholesterol), which are considered drug claims.

  • From an FDA standpoint, a cosmetic can’t claim to treat or prevent a disease or affect the structure or function of the body. Only claims that have to do with beautifying or improving appearance are acceptable.

  • From an FTC standpoint, a dietary supplement or a cosmetic can claim to treat or prevent disease or affect the structure or function of the body as long as the information is truthful, not misleading and substantiated. This includes “implied claims” like saying “control your blood sugar” rather than “treat diabetes.” It also includes private-label products and ingredients.

  • Within 30 days of making a structure/function claim on a dietary supplement, you’re required to notify the FDA. The FDA reviews the claim and makes sure it’s not a disease claim—you can check out the list of approved claims at The FTC requires you substantiate the claim at the time it’s made.

  • From the FDA’s standpoint, impermissible claims for dietary supplements include customer testimonials; product names that use diseases, like “Flu-gone;” and website metatags such as “lowers cholesterol.”

  • According to the FTC, “competent and reliable scientific evidence” for foods, dietary supplements and cosmetics does not include letters from consumers, in vitro studies and animal studies. There’s no set number of clinical studies required to substantiate a claim. The FTC also researches negative studies on products and weighs a product claim depending on the quality of the studies. For more information, check out the supplements advertising guide at

  • Testimonials in advertisements must be the actual experience of a customer and can’t be used to make claims that the advertiser couldn’t make based on scientific evidence. Also, the disclaimer of “results are not typical” is no longer allowable unless you also say what the typical results are.

  • Nutrient content claims such as “sugar free” and “high in fiber” have very specific rules, and the FDA is cracking down on enforcement. Check out the rules at

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