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Maybe you haven't been following Trisha Paytas' battle against bloat. The YouTube personality has been gushing on Instagram, Facebook, and elsewhere about how Flat Tummy Tea has supposedly helped her maintain a pleasing shape.

Could be, but critics say it's more likely the tea is contributing to bloat in Trisha's bank account. Consumer groups say it's time for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on celebrity endorsements that are little more than hidden ads. 

“Reality TV stars, actors and celebrities are often idolized, especially by young girls whose spending power and networks of followers attract companies that use undisclosed associations to prey upon insecurities by pushing beauty and health-related products,” said Kristen Strader, campaign manager for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert.

“The weight loss and cosmetics industries are using Instagram influencers to sneakily market products ranging from teas promising weight loss to glittery eyeshadow. Only a tiny fraction of these ads are disclosed to users," Strader said.

100 examples

Joining Public Citizen in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy. They cited more than 100 examples where products were featured in everyday celebrity, athlete, and personality Instagram posts but were most likely non-disclosed paid ads.

A core principle of fair advertising law in the United States is that people have a right to know when they are targets of advertising, the groups noted. On Instagram, disguised ads are rampant; deceived consumers often believe celebrities are making genuine, self-directed and enthusiastic endorsements of brands -- they don’t realize that those celebrities are paid and may not even use the touted brand, the consumer groups said.

"This investigation was by no means exhaustive as the total number of illicit endorsements would likely be too high to measure manually," the letter states. "From Rihanna (pop music star) advertising Puma to Kim Kardashian (famous for the teen reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians) endorsing Express Smile (a teeth-whitening company), these idols have a primarily young and impressionable audience."

The FTC has repeatedly said that advertisers must disclose relationships between themselves and endorsers that could affect the way consumers view the endorsement. The agency has previously brought cases against Warner Bros. and Lord & Taylor for allegedly failing to do so.

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