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FTC Files Second Civil Contempt Action
against Enforma Defendants

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a second civil contempt action against Enforma Natural Products, Inc., and its president, Andrew Grey, for continuing to violate the terms of a May 2000 final consent order prohibiting unsubstantiated claims for weight loss products. In addition, the FTC has filed civil contempt charges against Twenty-Four Seven, LLC, an entity formed by Enforma and Grey, and Donna DiFerdinando, Enforma's Director of Marketing. The FTC alleges that Enforma, Grey, Twenty-Four Seven, and DiFerdinando are advertising two new weight loss products - "Chitozyme" and "Acceleron" - using false and unsubstantiated representations and without the court-mandated disclosure that reducing caloric intake and/or increasing exercise is required to lose weight.

The FTC's action stems from an April 2000 case in which the Commission alleged that Enforma and Grey's advertising claims for two weight loss products, Fat Trapper and Exercise In A Bottle, were false and unsubstantiated. Enforma and Grey agreed to settle the charges and pay $10 million in consumer redress [1]. The consent order prohibits Enforma and Grey from making unsubstantiated weight loss claims and requires them to disclose in their advertisements that dieting and/or exercise is required to lose weight.

In January 2002, the FTC filed an application for civil contempt against Enforma, Grey, and Michael Ehrman, another Enforma executive, for continuing to advertise two weight loss supplements, Fat Trapper Plus and Exercise In A Bottle, using unsubstantiated and misleading representations, in violation of the May 2000 order. The court appointed its own expert to examine various scientific issues and has not yet ruled on the January contempt application.

According to the FTC, the defendants continued to advertise additional weight loss products, including Chitozyme and Acceleron, through two infomercials and a Web site, www.enforma2000.com. The infomercials feature Kevin Trudeau as the host and Donna DiFerdinando as "Vice President for Research and Development" and the "Product Developer." The infomercials and Web site state, among other claims, that Chitozyme is "a revolutionary fat trapping product that promotes weight loss while letting you still eat your favorite food guilt free," and that Acceleron "is proven to increase your metabolism" and "burns more calories."

In its application for civil contempt, the FTC alleges that the defendants have not provided any competent and reliable scientific evidence that Chitozyme "traps fat" and causes weight loss without diet or exercise. According to the FTC, the defendants acknowledged that the formula for Chitozyme is identical to the Fat Trapper Plus product that was challenged in the Commission's previous contempt filing. The FTC further alleges that the defendants have not provided any competent and reliable scientific evidence that Acceleron causes weight loss by increasing metabolism. The Commission also alleges that the defendants misrepresented the results of studies in their advertising and packaging, and failed to include the court-ordered disclosure in their infomercials.

The FTC is seeking a preliminary injunction to prohibit dissemination of these and other unsubstantiated claims, a recall of all product packaging and labeling, and an order requiring Enforma, Grey, Twenty-Four Seven, and DiFerdinando to give up all revenues received by them as a result of their violations of the Order.

Kevin Trudeau, although not charged in this action, has been the target of other actions involving dubious weight-loss promotions.

On July 27, 2002, I noticed that Trudeau hosted cable TV infomercials for an Atkins system and the Acceleron™/Carb Trapper Plus® Weight Loss System, both of which he said had helped him whereas others had not. From the front he he did not look overweight, but the side views shown during the Acceleron/Carb Trapper promotion suggested to me that he was about at least 20 pounds overweight.

References

  1. FTC files second civil contempt action against Enforma defendants: New contempt charges filed against Enforma employee and an additional company. FTC news release, July 25, 2002.
  2. Infomercial marketers settle various charges:.Ad claims for "Hair Farming," "Mega Memory System," "Addiction Breaking System,"
    "Action Reading," "Eden's Secret," and "Mega Reading" were deceptive
    . FTC news release, Jan 13, 1998.
  3. TV advertiser signs Fair Trading legal agreement: A US-born TV advertiser promoting dubious memory and weight-loss programs has withdrawn "infomercials" for these products as part of a legal agreement with Fair Trading. NSW Consumer Protection Agency Department of Fair Trading media release, Oct 10, 2000.

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This article was posted on July 27, 2002.