Honey heavyweights go head to head in NAD case about cough claims

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Martin Barraud
©Getty Images - Martin Barraud

Related tags: Honey, immune support, immune supplements

Two honey product purveyors went head to head in disagreement about how Zarbee’s Naturals was advertising its cough soothing formulas.

Zarbee’s markets a variety of dietary supplements, but is best known for its cough syrups, which contain honey as the main ingredient.  Another purveyor of similar products, Maty’s Health Products, LLC, challenged how Zarbee’s was communicating about its products’ effects.

Maty’s, which also sells supplements and personal care products along with its cough formulas, has a foundation story in which a mother sought to help her daughter who was left with a weakened immune system after a series of heart surgeries as an infant and toddler. Zarbee’s was created by a pediatrician who said his motivation was noticing that coughs and sore throats were the No. 1 complaint of patients in his practice.

Honey as common denominator

Both companies use honey as the main ingredient in their cough relief formulas which are sold as syrups and lozenges.  In Maty’s case, the honey is claimed to be organic, while Zarbee’s does not make a particular statement about the provenance of its honey. Both companies also add additional ingredients, such as vitamin C, zinc, and a number of botanical components depending on the individual formula.

 In a case brought before the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau’s National Programs, Maty’s challenged Zarbee’s product claims. At issue was the assertion that Zarbee’s messaging implied that the effects its cough relief and throat soothing products have were attributable to these additional ingredients rather than to the honey itself, which makes up the lion’s share of the formulas of both companies.

The NAD ruling noted that Maty’s was not challenging the assertion that the honey itself had health promoting benefits, which of course would  not be in its own best interest. The health promoting properties of honey has been supported by a significant amount of research​. 

Large number of Zarbee’s claims upheld

NAD investigated claims for Zarbee’s products on a number of websites where it is sold, including Walmart, CVS, iHerb and the company’s own product pages.  The NAD ruled that in most cases, the Zarbee’s product messages did not imply to consumers that the extra ingredients where the source of the products’ effects.  “[C]alm and soothe sore throats and coughs associated with hoarseness, dry throat, and irritants. Made with 99% honey,” is representative of the claims that NAD supported.

But in the case of products that claimed to have additional benefits, such as immune support in products with additional elderberry or sleep support in formulas containing melatonin, NAD ruled the claims should be modified.  “[A] delicious and safe way to soothe your cough while also supporting your immune system,” is a statement representative of these kinds of claims.

Zarbee’s said that while it was disappointed in some aspects of the NAD ruling, it supports the NAD’s self regulatory function.  The company went on to say it “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations.” 


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