Among those who recently testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance were Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and industry representatives, as well as Mehmet Oz, who was apparently grilled about the weight-loss product promotions on his afternoon TV program, “The Dr. Oz Show.” Subcommittee Chair Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) led the panel investigating false advertising for weight-loss products and asked Oz, “I don’t get why you need to say this stuff when you know it’s not true. When you have this amazing megaphone, why would you cheapen your show? . . . With power comes a great deal of responsibility.”
Among the products discussed were green coffee beans, which FTC targeted in May 2014 when it sued their manufacturer for deceptive practices. Oz promoted the product during his show, and product sales reportedly increased with some companies using video from the program to promote them. Details about the litigation appear in Issue 25 of this Report.
During the hearing, FTC Associate Director for Advertising Practices Mary Koelbel Engle reported on efforts the agency has undertaken to rein in the $2.4-billion weight-loss industry, noting that little evidence supports claims that pills or supplements alone will cause sustained weight loss without other changes to diet and lifestyle. During the past decade, FTC has apparently brought 82 weight loss-related enforcement actions, and since 2010 has collected some $107 million in restitution for consumers. It has also launched an interactive consumer video and game, in English and Spanish, to help consumers think critically about manufacturer claims for weight-loss products. Still, for all of its efforts, American consumers continue to spend billions every year on these products without any noticeable impact on obesity rates. See The National Law Journal, June 17, 2014; CNN, June 18, 2014.