In a wide-ranging hearing about ‘protecting consumers from false and deceptive advertising of weight-loss products’ that also involved members of the FTC, NPA, CRN, and advertising watchdogs, Dr Oz said that by not talking about specific companies he failed to give his audience an idea of where to go to buy high quality products .
“I wanted to stay above the fray,” he told the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance. “So that opened up a huge market for folks to make stuff and use my name to try to sell. I left my audience hanging by trying to do the ethical thing.”
When asked why he doesn’t just name the ‘good quality companies’, Dr Oz replied: “Doctors shouldn’t sell products.”
“For my colleagues at the FTC, I realize I have made their jobs more difficult.”
The hearing was chaired by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to examine the deceptive advertising and marketing practices of weight-loss products and their effects on American consumers.
With about 70% of US adults obese or overweight and looking for solutions it is perhaps unsurprising that more consumers were victims of fraudulent weight-loss claims than of any other specific fraud type, according to Mary Engle, associate director for advertising practices at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Testimony from the FTC stated: “The endless flood of unfounded claims being made in the weight-loss industry vividly illustrates the challenges we, and consumers, are up against.”
The testimony also noted that despite consumer spending of $2.4 billion on weight-loss products and services last year, there is very little evidence that pills or supplements alone will cause sustained, meaningful weight loss – without changes to diet and lifestyle.
Operation Failed Resolution
In the past 10 years, the FTC has brought 82 weight-loss-related law enforcement actions, and since 2010, it has collected nearly $107 million for consumer restitution. Earlier this year the FTC announced a new law enforcement initiative called Operation Failed Resolution to stop national marketers that used deceptive advertising claims to peddle fad weight- loss products.
The FTC is using various initiatives to counter fraudulent and deceptive practices, and today launched a new consumer video and game – the FTC Weight Loss Challenge – designed to help consumers think critically about weight-loss products and claims.
Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked FTC's Ms Engle if additional FDA regulation was required, to which Engle responded: “I cannot speak for the FDA. In understand they have their hands full with adulterated dietary supplements, products that actually contain prescription drugs, and they’re putting their efforts there.”
Also providing testimony at the hearing were Dr Daniel Fabricant, CEO of the Natural Products Association, Steven Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, Lee Peeler, president of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council at the Better Business Bureau, and Rob Haralson, executive director of TrustInAds.org.