U.S. sales of Sensa between 2008 and 2012 totaled more than $364 million.
The FTC didn't buy the pitch and charged California-based Sensa Products, LLC, its parent, and two individuals deceptively advertised that the powdered food additive Sensa enhances food’s smell and taste, making users feel full faster, so they eat less and lose weight, without dieting, and without changing their exercise regime.
The defendants did not have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support these claims, according to the FTC’s complaint.
In addition to Sensa Products, LLC, the FTC’s complaint names parent company Sensa, Inc., Sensa Inc. CEO Adam Goldenberg, and Sensa creator and endorser and Sensa Products part-owner Dr. Alan Hirsch with deceptive advertising for making unsubstantiated claims about Sensa.
The agency alleged that Dr. Hirsch – who conducted two of the studies cited in the ads and wrote a promotional book about Sensa – gave expert endorsements that were not supported by scientific evidence. The defendants falsely cited Dr. Hirsch’s studies as clinical proof that consumers could lose substantial weight without dieting or exercise. The defendants also allegedly misrepresented their role in a third study.
Under the order, the defendants are barred from making weight-loss claims about dietary supplements, foods, or drugs, unless they have two adequate and well-controlled human clinical studies supporting the claims; making any other health-related claim unless it is supported by competent and reliable scientific tests, analyses, research, or studies; and misrepresenting any scientific evidence.
They also must disclose any material connections with the endorsers of product or program, as well as with anyone conducting or participating in a study of the product or program.
Dr. Hirsch is barred under the order from providing expert endorsements unless he relies on both competent and reliable scientific evidence and his own expertise. And he is barred from providing to others studies, promotional materials, endorsements, or other means for deceiving consumers.
The order requires them to pay $26.5 million. If it is later determined that the financial information the defendants gave the FTC was false, the full amount of their $46 million dollar judgment will become due.
The next time someone says they have "scientific evidence" to back up sensa-tionalistic claims, body slimming dream creams promising to trim 1.3 inches in just 4 weeks or claims of rapidly losing substantial weight by adding a few drops of an elixir, ask a few questions. Who funded the research and why? How much evidence is there and how was it gathered? Was the sample size or location representative of the "real" situation?
NOTE: The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.