FTC settles with fish oil supplement company over false health claims

Photo (c) Aleksandr Zubkov - Getty Images

The company will pay over $400,000 to reimburse customers

A company that sells fish oil supplements and a lab that prepared advertisements for those products have caught the ire of the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly making false and misleading claims.

Regulators say BASF SE and DIEM Labs violated the FTC Act by using deceptive marketing practices to sell Hepaxa and Hepaxa PD supplements. In materials prepared by DIEM and approved by BASF, the companies said the products were “clinically proven” to reduce liver fat in adults and children with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; they also claimed that consumers would see health improvements within six months of taking the products. 

In actuality, the FTC says trials involving the supplements showed that they performed no better than a placebo.

“BASF and DIEM couldn’t back up serious claims about how Hepaxa capsules would help adults and kids with liver disease,” said Daniel Kaufman, the FTC’s Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies can’t cherry-pick data and need to be upfront about the science behind -- or not behind -- their products.”

BASF and DIEM will pay over $416,000 to the FTC under the terms of the settlement, and those funds will be distributed to all customers who bought either Hepaxa or Hepaxa PD. The companies are also barred from using misleading advertising and must show proper scientific evidence to support any health claims in the future.

Consumers can learn more about the case by contacting the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection online or by phone at 202-326-2125.

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