Food Supplement Stores Withdraw False Claims
about Dietary Supplements
FTC News Release
January 4, 1988
The Federal Trade Commission charged in a complaint that a franchisor of food supplement stores falsely claimed that three of its food supplements would enable users to lose weight, build muscle, or promote healing. A consent agreement settling the charges prohibits Great Earth International Inc. from making certain claims about the supplements' effectiveness.
Great Earth has about 150 retail outlets coast to coast, 140 of which are owned by franchisees and licensees and the remainder by the company. The Santa Ana, Calif.-based company sells food supplements, including pills, capsules, powders or liquids containing vitamins, minerals and other products. The company and its franchisors advertise their products throughout the United States. According to trade sources, Great Earth's sales in 1984 were about $45 million.
According to the complaint, Great Earth falsely claimed that three of its products would enable users to lose weight, build muscle, burn fat, promote healing, protect against mental and physical fatigue and strengthen the immune system. The company's ads stated that these benefits result because the products stimulate the body to release human growth hormone from the pituitary gland. However, the complaint charges the products do not stimulate the pituitary gland in that way and do not provide the promised results.
The company's ads for GHR Formula-PM claimed: "Lose while you snooze;" and "When you go to sleep, GHR Formula-PM goes to work burning away fat, building lean muscle tissue and firming." Great Earth is currently selling this product under the name "Tri-Amino Plus PM" Great Earth's ads for L-Ornithine and L-Arginine claimed: "They help speed up healing and protect against physical and mental fatigue." The complaint charges that these claims are false.
Great Earth represented in its ads and promotional materials that it had substantiation for its claims but, according to the complaint, the company did not.
Under the consent agreement, Great Earth must have substantiation for claims that any product will:
- cure or prevent any disease or other undesirable physical or mental condition;
- assist a user in losing or controlling weight or fat;
- improve or strengthen any body organ or function; or
- eliminate or reduce any harmful substance or organisms that may be found in the body or environment.
In addition, the consent agreement prohibits Great Earth from making certain claims for GHR Formula-PM, L-Ornithine, or L-Arginine, including claims that they will:
- stimulate production or release of human growth hormone;
- help users achieve rapid or substantial muscular development;
- promote weight loss during sleep; or
- promote burning of fat or building, firming or toning muscles.
The consent agreement also prohibits Great Earth from using the name "Growth Hormone Releaser," "GHR," or any similar name unless it has substantiation that the product stimulates the body or pituitary gland to release significantly greater amounts of human growth hormone in users than in non-users.
The FTC's Chicago Regional Office handled the investigation.
- FTC File No. 852-3212. Decision, 110 FTC 188.
This page was posted on August 27, 2006.