Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray were supposedly big supporters of acai berry diet pills, but a new federal investigation says the endorsements were fake. The makers of the pills also used fake Internet news sites to entice customers to buy their products.
Both practices have been halted as a result of a settlement between six online marketers and the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees advertising claims. The companies were fined $1.5 million which will go toward consumer refunds.
The Web sites were designed to look like legitimate news operations with investigative style reports and “first hand” experiences with acai berry supplements. Company claims that the pills induced rapid and substanial weight loss are also false.
As part of the settlement, the companies must clearly state that their “news” is actually an advertisement. The companies must also refrain from making false claims about their ability to cause weight loss. Beside weight-loss supplements the company also sold colon cleansers, claiming it would prevent cancer.
“Although the berries may be high in antioxidants, there is little evidence that they have special weight-loss or other such powers that you can often touted in ads on the Internet,” according to Consumerreports.
Central Coast Nutraceuticals in Phoenix was among the companies cited. The companies made repeated unauthorized charges to customer bank accounts. They typically charged $40 to $60 for the products.
Although Winfrey and Ray had no connection with the products, other celebrities such as >Gwyneth Paltrow and Kirstie Alley hawk expensive diet and health related products, not related to acai berries.