• FDA Believes Herbalife Video is Misleading
  • March 12, 2015 | Author: Stephen J. Burg
  • Law Firm: Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. - Englewood Office
  • The Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration admonished Herbalife Ltd. for misleading consumers in a recent YouTube video and asked the company to take the video down.

    Herbalife is an herbal and dietary supplement company founded in 1980. It sells foods and supplements like vitamins, nutrition bars and protein shakes in more than 90 companies. Its products are sold online or through independent sellers - not common retail stores.

    Taylor sent Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson a letter in mid-December stating the company mischaracterized the FDA's relationship with the dietary supplement company. More specifically, the FDA believes the company attempted to insinuate Herbalife products were tested and approved by the administration through a statement from a former agency employee, Vasilios H. Frankos, Ph.D.

    According to the letter, Frankos stated "[w]hen I was director of dietary supplements at the FDA, I oversaw nutritional supplements, making sure they were safe and effective for use," in the YouTube video.

    The FDA believes this statement mischaracterizes the FDA's review process in relation to Herbalife products. The above statement better describes the administration's drug review process - not how it handles herbal and dietary supplements. The FDA does not approve herbal supplements and herbal product manufacturers do not need to seek administration approval to market their products. Additionally, the FDA can only test dietary supplements for their safety after the products are marketed.

    Other issues for Herbalife

    In addition to the letter from the FDA, Herbalife is also dealing with multiple federal and state inquiries, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Federal Trade Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York and Illinois state attorneys all opened investigations into the company's activities in 2014, though none have taken action yet.

    The company uses what is called a multilevel marketing strategy where independent distributors purchase the products then sell to consumers. Herbalife has stated its business model is legal, but some have called it a pyramid scheme, according to the LA Times.

    Herbalife's response

    The FDA letter to Herbalife did not go unnoticed and the company responded, according to Natural Products Insider. The company replied all statements made in the video were true and that it in no way was attempting to mislead the public.