The Federal Trade Commission said Thursday that Mark Nutritionals Inc. used radio disc jockeys on more than 650 stations in 110 cities to sell its Body Solutions Evening Weight Loss Formula.
One radio ad included this claim read by a DJ: "It helped me lose 36 pounds and it helps me maintain through the holidays. I mean, I ate so much over Thanksgiving, I still have turkey burps. But thanks to Body Solutions, I keep the weight off and now I'm ready for Christmas."
The agency is not suing the DJs who read the ads, which were broadcast in English and Spanish.
"This was bilingual deception," said Howard Beales, director of the agency's consumer protection bureau.
The FTC lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Antonio. Texas and Illinois officials filed similar lawsuits Thursday.
The company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in September, has taken in $190 million since 1999 selling its Body Solutions products, the FTC said. The company still sells the weight-loss product on its Web site, charging $43 for a 15-ounce bottle.
Larry Cochran, acting chief executive of Mark Nutritionals since the bankruptcy, said the company has agreed to change its advertising to address the FTC's concerns.
"We are moving forward with a new way to promote and advertise our product," he said.
The weight loss formula is a liquid that consumers are instructed to drink before going to bed and at least three hours after eating or drinking. The ingredients have changed over time, the FTC said, but most recently included aloe vera gel and various herbs and supplements.
The FTC said there is no scientific proof any of the ingredients promote weight loss.
The FTC said the false claims included statements that the product would "cause substantial weight loss even if users eat substantial amounts of high-calorie foods such as pizza, beer, tacos, nachos, cheese grits and doughnuts."
Consumers ordered the formula over the Internet or by calling a toll-free number. The product also has been sold since the summer in Wal-Mart, Eckerd, Kmart and Walgreens, the FTC said.
The FTC is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions against the company to stop any deceptive claims. The agency also is seeking refunds for consumers.
Beales criticized the media for accepting advertisements like those for the weight-loss formula.
"We need help from responsible media outlets to keep these kinds of advertising from reaching the public," he said.
Beales said the FTC is developing a list of dubious weight-loss claims and wants to work with the media to screen those promotions.
By David Ho