Three major marketers of children's vitamins sold under the Disney and Marvel Heroes logos have agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission $2.1 million to settle charges that the companies falsely claimed their supplements promote healthy brain and eye development in children.
The FTC charged NBTY, Inc. and two subsidiaries, NatureSmart LLC and Rexall Sundown, Inc., with making false claims about the amount of DHA -- an Omega-3 fatty acid -- used in their products. While the vitamins' packaging extolled the health benefits of 100 milligrams of DHA, a daily serving of the Disney and Marvel multivitamins for children ages 4-years and older contained only a negligible trace of that amount.
According to the agency, one tablet or two gummies of the Disney and Marvel lines -- the equivalent of a daily serving -- contained just 0.1mg of DHA, or one-thousandth of the 100mg amount referred to in product advertising and packaging by the companies.
The colorfully-packaged gummies and tablets were sold at national retailers such as CVS Pharmacy, Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger, Kmart, Meijer, and Rite Aid, as well as through online vendors such as www.drugstore.com.
The multivitamins included in the FTC complaint are Disney Princess Gummies; Disney Pixar Cars Gummies; Disney Winnie the Pooh Gummies; Disney Tigger & Pooh Gummies; Disney Pixar Finding Nemo Gummies; Disney Pixar Wall-E Gummies; Disney Pixar Toy Story Gummies; as well as a line of chewable tablets called Disney Princess Complete.
This action is part of an ongoing effort by the FTC to crack down on advertisers making unsupported and misleading health claims, which are rampant in the dietary supplements industry. In recent months, the FTC has sued or fined a long list of companies claiming their supplements could help consumers lose weight, lose weight without effort, treat diabetes, fight germs, and enhance sexual performance, as well as prevent kids from getting sick or missing school (in the case of Nestle, the largest food company in the world).
The Food and Drug Administration and independent consumer groups have also gone after companies wrongly claiming their supplements could help users build muscle, cure Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, or stoke sexual desire by drinking coffee. In the latter two cases, the supplements were even found to contain undeclared active ingredients that could dangerously lower blood pressure and cause dehydration, kidney failure, and death.