I couldn’t be happier about this. If you’re a regular reader, then you know I’ve been critical of Sensa for a long time — ever since I first spotted one of their annoying infomercials on TV. Sensa Diet Smells Fishy to Me was the first of my several posts about the product. Now all of those people who tried to “eat themselves skinny” by sprinkling this pixie dust on their food will be getting their money back, and the company is barred from making future claims unless they actually conduct some legitimate research to back up their “sprinkle, eat, and lose weight” promises.
As part of “Operation Failed Resolution,” the Federal Trade Commission today announced a law enforcement initiative stopping Sensa and other national marketers from using deceptive advertising claims to peddle weight-loss products — L’Occitane, HCG Diet Direct, and LeanSpa, LLC.
The makers of Sensa will need to pay $26.5 million to consumers to settle federal charges that the company used deceptive weight-loss claims and misleading endorsements to sell these sprinkles.
The FTC charged that California-based Sensa Products, LLC, its parent, and Sensa creator Dr. Alan Hirsch and CEO Adam Goldenberg, deceptively advertised that Sensa enhances food’s smell and taste, making users feel full faster, so they eat less and lose weight, without dieting or exercising. As you can see in this ad: Get a gym body without going to the gym!
Even though ads touted “clinically proved,” the FTC said the company did not have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support their claims — which helped them rack up more than $364 million in sales between 2008 and 2012. A one-month supply will set you back about $59 plus shipping and handling. The agency also charged that the defendants failed to disclose the fact that some consumers were compensated for their endorsements of Sensa. In some cases, compensation included payments of $1,000 or $5,000, and trips to Los Angeles.
Specific charges were made against Dr. Hirsch, who conducted two of the studies cited in the ads and wrote a promotional book about Sensa. This Chicago researcher was the face you’d often see in the late-night infomercials. FTC said he gave expert endorsements that were not supported by scientific evidence, and provided the means for the other defendants to deceive consumers. Under the order, the defendants are barred from making weight-loss claims about dietary supplements, foods, or drugs, unless they have two adequate and well-controlled human clinical studies supporting the claims; making any other health-related claim unless it is supported by competent and reliable scientific tests, analyses, research, or studies; and misrepresenting any scientific evidence.
They also must disclose any material connections with the endorsers of a product or program, as well as with anyone conducting or participating in a study of the product or program. Dr. Hirsch is also barred under the order from providing expert endorsements unless he relies on both competent and reliable scientific evidence, and is barred from providing to others studies, promotional materials, endorsements, or other means for deceiving consumers.
I’m thrilled to see the FTC step up their enforcement against deceptive weight loss claims. As part of their campaign, they’ve created a list of seven statements to help consumers evaluate weight loss ads — which are certainly abundant this time of year. So if you see one of these claims, do a “gut check” first. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true — it usually is.
7 Gut Check Claims
- Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise
- Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats
- Causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops using product
- Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight
- Safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks
- Causes substantial weight loss for all users
- Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin
Here’s more from FTC: Sensa-tionalistic Claims Don’t Shake Off the Pounds.