The Federal Trade Commission has charged the suppliers of supposed Hoodia gordonii, also known as hoodia, with deceptive advertising for claiming that using their product would lead to weight loss and appetite suppression. In its complaint, the FTC alleges that the defendants not only made false and deceptive claims about what hoodia could do, but also, on one or more occasions, claimed that their product was Hoodia gordonii, a plant native to southern Africa, when it was not.
The FTC has requested that the court order the defendants not to make false or deceptive statements or destroy documents pending trial. The Commission seeks to permanently bar the defendants from deceptively advertising hoodia, and to obtain disgorgement of the defendants' profits from their hoodia sales.
The defendants allegedly made false and deceptive claims when advertising their fake hoodia to trade customers who manufactured and marketed supplements. The complaint further charges that the defendants provided trade customers with deceptive advertising and promotional materials — along with other materials that purported to substantiate their claims. These customers then had the means to deceive consumers who bought weight-loss products purportedly containing hoodia.
The complaint charges that the defendants made these false and deceptive claims about their product: that it would enable consumers to lose weight and suppress appetites; that it was scientifically proven to suppress appetite, resulting in weight loss; that it was clinically proven to reduce caloric intake by 1,000 to 2,000 calories per day; that it was derived from South African Hoodia gordonii; and that hoodia was an effective treatment for obesity.
The complaint names Delaware-based Nutraceuticals International, LLC, New Jersey-based Stella Labs, LLC, and four individuals as liable for these charges. The individual defendants are David J. Romeo, whom the complaint identifies as controlling both companies; and Deborah B. Vickery, Craig Payton, and Zoltan Klivinyi, who are officers or directors of one or both companies.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0. On March 20, 2009, the FTC filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The court has set a preliminary injunction hearing for April 29, 2009.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law.