“I think it’s very significant. It speaks to the longevity of the program and its productive nature,” attorney Marc Ullman, the chairman of NPF’s legal advisory council, told NutraIngredients-USA.
The program has been underway for three years. A case is begun when a non-compliant advertisement comes to the NPF’s attention; a letter detailing the issues with the ad and correct steps that can be taken is mailed to the offending company.
“It’s not an FDA warning letter but it was modeled on that concept,” Ullman said. “It expressed the foundation’s concerns that the advertiser seems to be noncompliant and it gives the advertiser the tools to come into compliance.”
The next step for companies that choose to ignore the NPF’s warnings is to refer the matter on to regulators, either at the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Trade Commission. This isn’t stated in so many words in the letters, Ullman said.
“It’s not expressed (in the warning letters) but it’s no secret that we meet with both FDA and FTC and turn over information concerning what we’ve found,” he said.
Program is confidential and neutral
The program is confidential, Ullman said. No one outside the immediate circle will know that a company has received an NPF warning letter if they choose to work with the foundation and come into compliance.
“Our program is totally neutral. We ask people to bring issues to our attention, but we send our letters without concern as to the affiliation of a company we might be writing to,” Ullman said.
“Our neutrality is further ensured by the fact that we are not funded by any one association. And we not beholden to anybody.”
Program gains momentum
The program has been gaining momentum. NPF says it has initiated 100 new review cases in 2012, and sent 65 warning letters. And the compliance rate of companies that received warning letters is ramping up, too. Over the length of the program about two thirds of companies have chose to cooperate, the foundation said, but in 2012 that rate has risen to about 80%. Since the inception of the program 47 cases have been referred on to FDC and FDA.
“The FTC specifically has commented that it thinks the response rate the foundation receives is exceptional,” he said.
The Truth in Advertising Review is overseen by the NPF Legal Advisory Council (LAC). The LAC is composed of attorneys who volunteer their time to help improve the dietary supplement industry’s advertising practices. Current council members include Mr. Ullman of Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman, Jackie Kuler of Gronek & Associates, Nicholas Licato of Nexgen Pharma, and Jim Prochnow and Justin Prochnow of Greenberg Traurig.
The foundation relies on interested parties in the dietary supplements and functional foods industries to identify noncompliant advertising. Noncompliant ads can be reported here.