FTC: Three Firms Reach Settlement Over Health Claims
The Federal Trade Commission yesterday announced settlements aimed to stop three Internet companies from promoting Essiac Tea and cetylmyrisoleate (CMO) "with unsubstantiated claims about their curative powers," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The settlement stems from the 10-month campaign known as Operation Cure.All, in which the FTC and FDA identified more than 400 Web sites that make questionable claims that products are useful to treat serious disease, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes and AIDS. In the settlement, the companies agreed to stop making unsupported claims about Essiac Tea, CMO or any other food, drugs or dietary supplements that they market on their Web sites, but "none of the companies admitted any wrongdoing." Investigators said in two of the cases, the Web sites utilized "deceptive high-tech marketing techniques" or "misleading messages" to attract Internet users. Among the techniques used were fake hyperlinks, which linked to other purportedly unrelated Web sites, but actually were operated by the same company; misleading metatags or hidden keywords which trigger Internet search engines to list certain pages; and deceptive "mouseover text," in which words appear "fleetingly as a screen pointer passes over a particular component on a page." Jodie Bernstein, FTC director of consumer protections, called these cases "especially troublesome because of how frequently consumers are turning to the Web for health information" (Gelles, 4/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.