United States, Mexico, Canada (MUCH) Combat Weight Loss Fraud

Over 700 Compliance Actions Taken Since 2003

Under a Trilateral Cooperation Charter agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada signed in 2003, six agencies (two from each country) today announced that they have taken nearly 730 compliance actions against companies that they allege promote bogus and misleading weight loss schemes that endanger public health, provide false hope, and defraud citizens of billions of dollars.

“International cooperation is the key to fighting weight-loss scams that target all consumers, regardless of geographic borders,” said Lydia Parnes, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Whether we are working on law enforcement sweeps or on education for consumers and businesses, our successes in the health fraud area are sweeter when we coordinate our efforts.”

“False and misleading claims can have significant health consequences to those who use these products that do not produce the desired results,” said Dr. Murray Lumpkin, Deputy Commissioner (International and Special Programs) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “The collaborative efforts of all three countries have contributed to these enforcement actions and we look forward to continuing our trilateral initiatives to make North Americans healthier and able to make better informed health care decisions.”

Fighting weight loss fraud is a key priority for all three countries as unprecedented numbers of citizens of all ages have become either overweight or obese. According to the World Health Organization, more than 60 percent of United States and Mexican citizens and more than 50 percent of Canadians are overweight or obese.

Being obese or overweight is a major contributor to chronic disease and disability and can pose major long-term public health risks requiring proven and effective treatments. These allegedly fraudulent products and programs target vulnerable consumers and simply do not work.

The compliance actions taken include efforts such as prosecutions, recalls, seizures, import refusals, warnings and other enforcement programs against allegedly false and misleading weight loss advertising and labeling, as well as the promotion of voluntary industry compliance. The countries have complemented these compliance and enforcement actions with a comprehensive education and public outreach program to help consumers, industry and advertisers to identify which types of claims are deceptive and misleading.

The US-Mexico-Canada Trilateral Cooperation provides the three countries with a formal mechanism to work closely together to better protect, promote and advance human health in North America. Its purpose is to increase communication, collaboration and the exchange of information in the areas of drugs, biologics, medical devices, food safety and nutrition.

These compliance actions were taken by member agencies of MUCH (Mexico, United States, Canada Health Fraud Working Group), one of several working groups formed by the Trilateral Cooperation Charter. MUCH consists of regulatory officials from health, consumer protection and competition agencies in Mexico [Federal Commission for the Protection from Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS), Office of the Federal Attorney for Consumer Protection (PROFECO)], the United States (Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration) and Canada (Health Canada, Competition Bureau).

Consumers in search of quick solutions to lose weight waste billions of dollars on bogus, ineffective, and sometimes dangerous weight-loss products and schemes promoted by fraudulent advertisers. Despite claims to the contrary, there are no magic solutions or effortless ways to shed pounds. The three countries remind consumers that to lose weight, consumers must lower caloric intake and/or increase physical activity.

For more information about the MUCH group, the MUCH weight loss initiative and the Trilateral Cooperation Agreement, see the attached Fact Sheet and visit the Trilateral Cooperation website at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/intactivit/trilateral-coop/index_e.html.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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