FTC Hones in on Omega-3 Claims, Among Others

February 17, 2010

By Ricardo Carvajal and A. Wes Siegner

According to a press release issued by FTC, the agency “has sent letters to 11 companies that promote various Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, telling them they should review their product packaging and labeling to make sure they do not violate federal law by making baseless claims about how the supplements benefit children’s brain and vision function and development.”  The companies have been given two weeks to respond.  As an example of the level of substantiation that FTC would find acceptable, the letters point to “well-conducted, clinical cause-and-effect studies demonstrating that the use of the combination of Omega-3 fatty acids provided in Product X, in the same dosage as provided by one serving of that product, improves or promotes brain function, cognitive function, attention span, intelligence, memory, learning ability, and visual acuity in normal children ages 2 years and older.”

This latest action is consistent with remarks delivered by an FTC staff attorney at the Food and Drug Law Institute’s recent conference on hot topics in food and dietary supplement law.  In her remarks, the staff attorney indicated that FTC intends to closely scrutinize claims relating to omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, fiber products, antioxidants, and products marketed for use by children.  The products targeted in FTC’s latest action span two of these categories, suggesting that they may have been at especially high risk.  Notably, FTC’s press release encourages the filing of consumer complaints against companies that “may be deceptively advertising dietary supplements for children.”