But what about consumers who leave reviews that make unsubstantiated health claims? Where does this leave advertisers and their consumer product reviews?
Attorney Marc Ullman of counsel at the firm Rivkin Radler, who specializes in natural products compliance and advertising law, joined the NutraCast to discuss some recent cases and their implications for the natural products industry.
One such case involved a dietary supplement manufacturer who had a company webpage that featured reviews from various users. Many of the reviews mentioned COVID-19, like this one:
Michael K. (Verified Buyer): “Very happy with the product, I feel BC so well protected from COVID-19 with your supplements….”
NAD said this review looked more like a testimonial. So when do companies draw the line?
“Companies need to accept that they have responsibility for material like this published on sites and over which they have control,” explained Ullman. “It's pretty black letter, it’s pretty well established law. These aren't new concepts. If you have control over the place where this content is published and you're the marketer or you're on the manufacturer you need to be vetting what gets posted on these sites for compliance purposes.”
Another recent case involved consumer reviews posted on Amazon which implied an elderberry syrup could treat COVID-19. In this case, NAD encouraged the advertiser to address these false views that were expressed in the product reviews that were posted on Amazon.
“If you use the word ‘COVID’ in any of your advertising or promotional material or it's in a testimonial or consumer review, you have put a great big bullseye on your back,” cautioned Ullman.
Ullman said there are a number of resources available to companies who want to stay in compliance.
“There's a wealth of information available from our trade associations. There is pretty good outreach by the NAD, the Federal Trade Commission has a number of very good guides. The FDA on its website has a variety of guidance documents and the information is out there and for people who are looking. [It’s] fairly accessible.”
NutraCast is a podcast that focuses on insights from inside the nutrition industry. It is a production by NutraIngredients-USA. Music by Kevin Macleod.