FTC Releases New Guidelines for Dietary Supplements Advertising

March 15, 2023
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released new guidelines for advertising health products. These guidelines are largely aimed at protecting consumers from false or misleading claims made by supplement advertising companies promoting their products as having health benefits.

Supplement Advertising Claims Must be Supported

According to the new guidance, companies must have scientific evidence to support any claims they make about the effectiveness of their product. This means that if a company is selling and advertising a dietary supplement and claiming that it can cure cancer, they must have scientific proof to back up this claim. Mere third party studies and citations are not sufficient to establish scientific proof, but clinical studies of the product itself are.

The new document, “Health Products Compliance Guidance,” is 40 pages long, including footnotes. It replaces a previous document issued in 1998, titled “Dietary Supplements: An Advertising Guide for Industry.”

FTC Regulation of Supplement Advertising Has Evolved

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been actively involved in regulating false or misleading supplement advertising claims for health-related products since the publication of its guidance in 1998. Over the years, FTC has filed more than 200 cases against companies that made deceptive claims about their dietary supplements, foods, over-the-counter drugs and other health-related products.

In a recent news release, FTC announced the revision of its guidance to include new examples and extend coverage to all health-related products, beyond supplement advertising. The revised guidance draws on lessons learned from past cases to provide businesses with clearer guidelines on how they can avoid making false or misleading advertising claims.

One major change in the revised guidance is that it now covers the advertising of all health-related products instead of just dietary supplement advertising. This means that any product marketed as having a positive impact on consumers’ health will be subject to scrutiny by FTC if it makes unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims, including wearables, topicals, and even health apps.

New Advertising Guidelines Provide Real Life Examples

To illustrate what constitutes false or misleading advertising claims under the revised guidelines, FTC provides 23 new examples based on real-life cases. These examples cover a wide range of scenarios such as unsupported efficacy claims in supplement advertisements, misrepresentations about clinical studies and endorsements by celebrities without proper disclosures.

Overall, the revised guidance aims to promote transparency and accuracy in supplement advertising and marketing practices for health-related products while protecting consumers from deceptive practices. Businesses that sell health products are advised to review their marketing materials carefully and ensure that any claim they make is supported by reliable scientific evidence before publishing them publicly. Failure to do so may result in legal action by FTC which could lead to fines, injunctions or even criminal penalties depending on the severity of the offense.

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