Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, was slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for making health claims that could not be substantiated about its Boost Kid Essentials drinks.
"Nestlé's claims that its probiotic product would prevent kids from getting sick or missing school just didn't stand up to scrutiny," David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a statement sent to Consumer Ally. "Parents want to do right by their kids, and the FTC is helping them by monitoring ads and stopping those that are deceptive."
The company agreed to drop the health claims in a settlement of allegations made by the FTC. The FTC said this its first case that questioned advertising of probiotics.
Ads ran on TV and in print claiming Boost Kid Essentials prevents upper respiratory tract infections in children and can help ward off "colds and flu by strengthening the immune system, and reduces absences from daycare or school due to illness," the FTC said.
The drinks, targeted at children from ages one to 13, feature a straw that includes probiotics -- helpful bacteria that have been shown to aid in digestion and can help battle harmful bacteria. In the ads, a straw jumps out of a drink box and forms a protective barrier around a girl as a boy sneezes.
"The ads falsely claimed that Boost Kid Essentials is clinically shown to reduce illness in children, to protect from colds and flu by strengthening the immune system, and to help children up to age 13 recover more quickly from diarrhea," the FTC said.
Nestlé agreed that it would no longer claim the drinks could "reduce the risk of colds, flu, and other upper respiratory tract infections" except if the Food and Drug Administration approved the claims. In addition, Nestlé will no longer claim the drink could reduce the number of sick days of a child or reduce how long they have diarrhea.
The FTC appears to be stepping up its enforcement of health claims on food targeted for kids. Just last month, the FTC flogged Kellogg for health claims on Rice Krispies.
It is not unusual for food companies to try to make unsubstantiated label claims. But the FTC tends to step in when the claims go too far and involve specific health claims.
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