They didn't promise that children would gain X-ray vision or bend steel, but federal authorities say the claims made about Marvel Hero and Disney multivitamins still went too far.
Marketers of the vitamin products made unsubstantiated claims that daily doses would promote healthy brain and eye development in children, the latest in a series of "deceptive health claims" about vitamins and other products.
It left parents envisioning their kids as Little Einsteins with no glasses.
In a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the marketers of the products — sold at such stores as CVS Pharmacy, Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Kmart and Rite Aid — agreed to repay consumers $2.1 million.
The Federal Trade Commission charged the maker of the product, NBTY Inc., and two subsidiaries, NatureSmart LLC and Rexall Sundown Inc., with making deceptive claims about the amount of DHA — an Omega-3 fatty acid — used in their line of Disney and Marvel Heroes licensed children's multivitamin gummies and tablets.
The vitamins featured such characters as Disney Princesses, Winnie the Pooh, Finding Nemo and Spider-Man.
It's what I call Health Benefit Hyperbole (HBH).
The recent case follows claims by Bayer Healthcare that its One A Day Men's 50+ Advantage and One A Day Men's Health Formula multivitamins can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined those claims had not been proved.
Along with tighter reins on vitamin claims, federal authorities also have been targeting claims in breakfast cereals and other supplements such as acai berry.
Ilene Ringel Heller, associate director of legal affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the federal government has stepped up its efforts to target deceptive marketing practices since the food and supplement makers began widespread use of the health claims in the mid 1990s.
"Consumers are very confused," Heller said. "So we're delighted the Federal Trade Commission is taking action on these kinds of claims now."
Ivan Penn can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge and find The Consumer's Edge on Facebook.