Children’s Supplement Maker Nourishlife Settles FTC Charges

January 9th, 2015

Nourishlife, a supplement maker that markets products aimed at children with autism that was the subject of a TINA.org special investigation and warning, will pay $200,000 to settle a deceptive advertising lawsuit filed by the FTC and issue refunds of $25 to more than 6,900 customers.

speak-feature-imageIn a complaint filed in January in federal court in Illinois, the FTC alleges that the Illinois-based marketer of SpeechNutrients “speak” (Speak) and company CEO Mark Nottoli:

  • Deceptively advertised that the supplement, which contains omega 3 and vitamins E and K, was clinically proven to treat and maintain normal speech capacity in children on the autism spectrum who suffer from speech delays and that children who took it were likely to rapidly improve their speech and language ability and improve behavior.
  • Did not disclose that parents who provided testimonials endorsing the supplement received free products valued at more than $100. One parent, Kristin Selby Gonzalez, the chairwoman of the nonprofit Autism Hope Alliance who provided an endorsement and also blogs for the site, also received complimentary products.
  • Deceptively represented an apraxia research website as independent and objective source for research without disclosing that it is owned and operated by Nourishlife.

The proposed FTC settlement imposes a judgment of $3.68 million, which will be partially suspended – based on the defendants’ inability to pay — after the company pays the $200,000, which can be used for consumer refunds. It also prohibits NourishLife and Nottoli from making false or unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of any dietary supplement, food, or drug, including but not limited to the Speak products.

“Parents of children with speech disorders need accurate information about products that may be able to help,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This company took advantage of parents’ trust.”

In an emailed statement to TINA.org Friday Nottoli said:

The FTC has determined that some of the claims NourishLife had used in prior marketing were not adequately substantiated. Therefore, NourishLife made changes and signed an Order stating, among other things, that we will no longer use those marketing claims.

TINA.org warned consumers in March 2013 that its investigation found several deceptive practices and alerted Nourishlife, the FTC, the Illinois Attorney General and the FDA. (TINA.org later withdrew the complaints it filed with the agencies when Nourishlife made changes to its marketing and website.)

TINA.org also sent letters to physician Claudia Morris who filed a patent application for the formula, and the Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland where Morris had worked and which is listed on the Nourishlife site.

Nourishlife was also the subject of an action by NAD, an advertising self-regulatory body. It is also facing a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court January 22 in Florida.

Click here for more about TINA.org’s actions and coverage of Nourishlife.

UPDATE 10/5/16: Nourishlife changed its name to “lifetrients” and is now claiming Speak is a supplement for children with “special nutritional requirements.” 

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