ERSP challenges stem cell claims made by online marketer Emergent Health
NEW YORK — The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program on Wednesday recommended that Emergent Health modify or discontinue certain Internet advertising claims for the company’s “JDI MultiVitamin,” promoted by the advertiser as designed to “increase adult stem cells.” The marketer voluntarily modified several claims at issue in ERSP’s inquiry.
JDI MultiVitamin is a dietary supplement containing a number of essential vitamins and minerals. According to the marketer, the supplement’s proprietary formula is also designed to “increase adult stem cells.”
At the outset of ERSP’s inquiry, the marketer asserted that it had voluntarily modified or discontinued certain of the claims at issue. While confirming that Emergent Health had implemented changes, ERSP noted in it decision that it remained concerned with several core claims. ERSP further noted that the advertiser did not provide ERSP with the results of testing on the JDI MultiVitamin formula, but instead relied on studies of the product’s ingredients.
Following its review, ERSP determined that the evidence in the record did not support claims that the use of the product would increase the number of adult stem cells, thereby improving immune system support, decreasing inflammation or bettering mental acuity and mood. ERSP recommended Emergent Health discontinue claims that the product can increase the number stem cells and/or provide specific disease protection.
ERSP also was concerned about statements that could be reasonably interpreted as unqualified superiority claims (e.g., “The most simple and cost effective…” and “the most advanced…”). Emergent Health informed ERSP that it has modified these claims to appear in future advertising in a noncomparative context.
Regarding the consumer testimonials at issue, ERSP noted that consumer endorsements themselves are not competent and reliable scientific evidence and a marketer should possess reliable substantiation – including, when appropriate, competent and reliable scientific evidence – to support such in the same manner the marketer would be required to do if it had made the representation directly. In the absence of data supporting the results consumers can typically expect, ERSP recommended that the marketer refrain from using consumer testimonials to communicate atypical product performance.
The company, in its marketer’s statement, said it “…agrees to accept ERSP's report as applicable and agrees to amend all statements in its advertising to meet the conclusion of the ERSP report. Likewise, the Company is willing to complete the process and take ERSP's recommendations into consideration in its future advertising.”
Claims at issue in ERSP’s review included:
“It is designed to supply all of the micro nutrients needed to support life as well as increase adult stem cells”
" … may also help maintain existing telomere length by up to 5% according to recent studies of multi vitamins”;
“The ingredients of the product have been thoroughly tested for safety and also studied for the effects of increasing adult stem cells, improving immune system support, decreasing inflammation and bettering mental acuity and mood as well as telomere support based upon structure and function”; and
“My grandmother has Alzheimer's, osteo, and heart problems. At her last doctor's visit he told her that her tests are better than they have been for over 20 years.”
ERSP, the electronic direct-response industry’s self-regulatory forum, is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus with policy oversight by the National Advertising Review Council.