Feds crack down on 4 bogus weight loss aids

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm •  Published: January 7, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Makers of a weight loss additive called Sensa will return more than $26 million to consumers to settle federal charges that the company used deceptive advertising claiming that consumers could lose weight by simply sprinkling the powder on their food.

Sensa Products LLC promoted the powder through major retailers like Costco and GNC and with infomercials on the Home Shopping Network and other television networks. The company sold a one-month supply of Sensa for $59 and urged consumers to "sprinkle, eat and lose weight."

But Federal Trade Commission officials said Tuesday the company used bogus clinical studies and paid endorsements to rack up more than $364 million in sales between 2008 and 2012.

The government's settlement with California-based Sensa is part of a broader crackdown on four companies peddling weight-loss products including food additives, skin creams and dietary supplements.

"The chances of being successful just by sprinkling something on your food, rubbing cream on your thighs, or using a supplement are slim to none — the science just isn't there," said Jessica Rich, director of FTC's consumer protection office.

The FTC will also collect $7.3 million from LeanSpa, a company that promotes acai berry and "colon cleanse" weight loss supplements through fake news websites. Also swept up in Tuesday's action are skin cream maker L'Occitane and HCG Diet Direct, which sells unproven hormones for weight loss. The companies will together return about $34 million to consumers to settle the federal charges.

Rich told reporters that the weight loss products targeted by FTC both waste consumers' money and prevent them from seeking out legitimate treatments.

Regulators acknowledged that they were only able to collect a fraction of what the public paid for the products in recent years. In the case of Sensa, FTC officials said much of the revenue was quickly spent on advertising, including infomercials.

"It's not uncommon for us to see that much of the money that has come in from consumers has been spent and is not available for refund," said Mary Engle, an associate director in FTC's division of advertising practices.