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Facebook and Twitter: FDA continues to monitor tweets and ‘likes’

By Stephen Daniells+

09-Jul-2014
Last updated on 09-Jul-2014 at 19:00 GMT

Be careful what you 'like'..
Be careful what you 'like'..

A new warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration shows that the agency is continuing to scrutinize activity on Facebook and Twitter just as carefully as it is looking at corporate websites.

A warning letter dated June 27, 2014 to Utah-based Zarbee’s Inc and its owner Mr. Bryce L. Johnson alleges that the company was making therapeutic claims on its website, and 'liking’ on testimonials on Facebook and claims on Twitter “establish that the products are drugs because they are intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease”.

Claims on the company’s website in May 2014 stated that the Zarbee’s Naturals Children’s Cough Syrup-Grape “[C]alms coughs…”, said the agency, while the Zarbee’s Naturals Seasonal Relief 10 Count product was claimed to “[C]linically supported to work fast and offer congestion relief so you can breathe better in every season.”

Twitter:

The warning letter also stated: “In addition, claims on your Twitter page, https://mobile.twitter.com/ZarBees, which has a link to your website at http://www.zarbees.com where products can be purchased directly, provide further evidence that your products are intended for use as drugs:

On February 7, 2014: ‘Try @Zarbees #naturalremedies for Cold and Cough Season…’

On January 30, 2014: ‘RT@MomCentral Have you tried #ZarbeesCough for cold and cough relief?’”

Facebook

The role of testimonials on the company’s Facebook page also came under the agency’s gaze, with the company allegedly endorsed or promoted personal testimonials “recommending or describing the use of products for the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease”.

One example cited by the agency was that the company ‘liked’ a comments relating to bronchitis or pneumonia.

The company has 15 days from receipt of the warning letter to respond with how it will correct the violations noted by the FDA.

Ongoing…

The warning letter for Zarbee's follows two warning letters in 2013 concerning activities on Facebook and Twitter.

In a warning letter to AMARC Enterprises, the FDA said a testamonial posted by a consumer on its Facebook page claiming that its PolyMVA dietary supplement “enabled me to keep cancer at bay without the use of chemo and radiation” - was ‘liked’ by the company.

As the posting amounted to an unauthorised drug-claim and AMARC had effectively 'endorsed' it by 'liking' it on its Facebook page, the FDA included this as one of several examples of the company promoting PolyMVA “for conditions that cause the product to be a drug” rather than a dietary supplement.  

In a second warning letter sent to M.D.R. Fitness Corp (which you can read here), the FDA noted that typing diseases such as ‘cancer’ or ‘diabetes’ into the search box on its website brought up product lists of dietary supplements.

Because those products are as a result 'associated' with cancer and diabetes in consumers' minds, M.D.R. is "implying that its products are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of such diseases," argued the FDA.

To read our full coverage of these letters, please click here

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