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Defendants Lose The Weight Of Their Assets In “Hoodia” Weight Loss Case

In April of 2009 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged makers of a “Hoodia” weight loss supplement with deceptive advertising. The companies, Nutraceuticals International, Stella Labs and key company players and controllers David Romeo, Deborah Vickery, Craig Payton, and Zoltan Klivinyi claimed that using their product would lead to weight loss and appetite suppression.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that the defendants not only made false and deceptive claims about what hoodia could do, but also, on one or more occasions, claimed that their product was Hoodia gordonii, a plant native to southern Africa, when it was not. They claimed their product was scientifically proven to suppress appetite, resulting in weight loss; and was clinically proven to reduce caloric intake by 1,000 to 2,000 calories per day.

Last week the charges were settled against the aforementioned (sans Klivinyi who is no longer residing in the United States). Under the settlements:

David Romeo, controller of Nutraceuticals International and Stella Labs, are banned from making any weight-loss claims while marketing foods, drugs, and dietary supplements. The settlement imposes a $22.5 million judgment against Romeo and the two companies, which will be suspended when Romeo forfeits his vacation home in Vermont, and assigns to the FTC the right to collect on $635,000 in business loans owed to him. If it is later determined that the financial information Romeo gave the FTC was false, the full amount of the judgment will become due.

Nutraceuticals International principal Craig Payton is banned from marketing any foods, drugs, or dietary supplements. The order against Payton does not require him to forfeit any assets, as they were already seized in an unrelated federal drug case.

Nutraceuticals International marketing executive Deborah Vickery is required to pay a $4 million judgment, which has been suspended due to her inability to pay. If it is later determined that the financial information she gave the FTC was false, the full amount of the judgment will become due.

All five defendants (the three mentioned and the two companies) are prohibited from making any false or unsupported claims about foods, drugs, or dietary supplements, and from helping others to make these claims. They also are barred from misrepresenting the results of any scientific study – Source.

I feel consumers should be wary of any dietary supplement and/or weight loss diet ad. As with anything else in life, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Take caution folks. Talk to your doctor about any weight related questions or concerns.


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Amanda Miller

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