Acai berry supplements have been supposedly praised by Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray for being a fast and effective pill for weight loss, but now one government agency has deemed this miracle drug a curse to consumers.
The Federal Trade Commission announced Monday that it is imposing an asset freeze on the marketers of acai berry weight loss supplements and colon cleansers, and has ordered the company to cease its deceptive advertising practices.
According to the FTC, Central Coast Nutraceuticals, the company behind acai berry supplements, has falsely marketed their colon cleansing product, Colopure, as a treatment for preventing cancer. The company also falsely claimed that their signature product, AcaiPure, is an effective weight loss supplement.
Beyond this, the FTC has accused Central Coast Nutraceuticals and several firms related to it of concocting fake celebrity endorsements and scamming consumers for payments.
“In this case, the defendants promised buyers a ‘risk free’ trial and then illegally billed their credit cards again and again – and again. We estimate that about a million people have fallen victim to this scam,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “As if that weren’t enough, there were fake endorsements from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray for a product that didn’t work in the first place.”
Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray have each released court statements this month confirming that they never signed off to endorse the acai products.
“Ms. Oprah Winfrey has never endorsed any acai berry supplement or acai berry related product by name," Winfrey’s company, Harpo Inc., said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
This is not the first time that the acai berry supplement has come under fire. Last year, the Phoenix-based Central Coast Nutraceuticals was sued in an Arizona court for relying on deceptive marketing tactics and forced to pay a $1.4 million penalty, $350,000 of which went to refund consumers.