The Federal Trade Commission announced that it sent warning letters to twenty more marketers, telling them to stop making unsubstantiated claims that their products or therapies can prevent or treat COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the FTC has sent warning letters related to COVID-19 claims to more than 330 marketers.
The FTC challenged claims related to a wide range of products -- everything from claims that consumers should wear beaded bracelets to "boost their immunity" to claims that consumers should drink from copper water bottles "because any germs or bacteria that land on the bottle will be destroyed on impact."
One warning letter that is of particular interest relates to advertising by Camp TUF for its online and in-person fitness classes and personal training. Even though exercise is widely recognized as being good for your health, and as something that can help your immune system, the FTC objected to the Camp TUF's claims that exercise can specifically prevent people from getting COVID-19. The company made claims such as, "Exercise eliminates the virus if you have it and prevents the spread for others that don't," "Do NOT let this coronavirus win the battle; take the step of combat by taking action for your immune system," and "The stronger we keep our immune systems; the faster we win this battle!"
An important take-away from the Camp TUF letter is that advertisers should be very careful about making the leap from health-related claims you can substantiate to those you can't. Just because your product has proven health benefits, or your product has been shown to kill germs, doesn't mean that it necessarily provides protection specifically against COVID-19.
In order to make any health-related claim, the FTC expects you to have competent and reliable scientific evidence that supports it. As the FTC told Camp TUF, it's unlawful "to advertise that a product or service can prevent, treat, or cure human disease unless you possess competent and reliable scientific evidence, including, when appropriate, well-controlled human clinical studies, substantiating that the claims are true at the time they are made."
Originally Published by Frankfurt Kurnit, November 2020
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