Last Friday, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) sent warning letters to ten online marketers that were making Zika virus-protection claims. The Center for Disease Control believes that the Zika virus is spread primarily through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitoes. The marketers in focus are currently advertising that their products repel Zika virus-carrying mosquitoes. In its warning letters, the FTC reminded those marketers that all claims, including Zika virus-protection claims, must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence at the time the claims are made.

According to the FTC, these marketers must be able to demonstrate their products’ claimed effects—Zika virus protection—are as advertised. To do so, they must support their claims through well-controlled human clinical testing, using the species of mosquitoes (Ae. aegypti or Ae. albopictus) that carry Zika. These marketers were urged to immediately review their claim substantiation. If their claims are not supported by reliable scientific evidence, the FTC is demanding that the marketers discontinue making them. The FTC is requiring that each marketer in receipt of the FTC’s warning letter provide notice (within 48 hours) of specific actions taken to rectify the issues raised.

Takeaway: Marketers should ensure that virus-protection claims are substantiated by well-controlled human clinical testing that demonstrates the advertised benefits. The substantiation should be in the marketer’s files at the time the claims are made.