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August 12, 2008
The marketers of a line of dietary supplements have agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle US Federal Trade Commission charges that claims about their oregano oil and capsules were false and unsubstantiated, in violation of federal law.
According to the FTC's complaint, North American Herb & Spice Co., LLC, and its owner, Judy Kay Gray, falsely claimed that Oreganol P73, Super Strength Oreganol P73, and Oregacyn (currently sold as OregaRESP) are scientifically proven to prevent or treat colds and flu. The defendants also claimed that the products boost the immune system and kill a variety of germs and pathogens, including cold and flu viruses, avian bird flu virus, hepatitis C, Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori, mold, parasites, and yeasts. Sold at prices ranging from $29.99 to $69.99, the products purportedly contain P73, which is described as wild, handpicked Mediterranean oregano. The products were advertised on Web sites, including www.p-73.com, and in magazines such as Alternative Medicine, H2O, Health Supplement Retailer, and Women's Health & Fitness.
The final order imposes a $2.5 million judgment and places restrictions on the defendants' future conduct. It prohibits them from claiming that their products prevent or treat colds or flu, are clinically tested or scientifically proven to be effective, or have other health or safety benefits, unless the claims are true, not misleading, and based on reliable scientific evidence. In addition, the defendants are banned from misrepresenting the existence, validity, results, or conclusions of any test or study. The order also contains standard record-keeping provisions to allow the FTC to monitor compliance.
The FTC would like to acknowledge the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus for their referral related to this case.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint and stipulated final order was 4-0. The documents were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The court entered the order on August 4, 2008.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. The stipulated final order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
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