Google Takes Down Amazon’s ‘Shop FDA Approved Supplements’ Ad Following TINA.org Inquiry

February 5th, 2020

The FDA does not approve supplements. We repeat: The FDA does not approve supplements. Not only does the FDA not approve supplements, the federal agency warns that while supplements can be beneficial to your health, substituting them for prescription drugs, combining them or taking too much of one supplement could be life-threatening. In other words, these products could actually kill you.

The FDA shares this valuable information in a post on its website titled “What You Need to Know about Dietary Supplements.” As recently as yesterday afternoon, the post was the first organic search result when you Googled “FDA approved supplements.” The problem, a TINA.org reader pointed out, was what was above it: a Google ad that invited consumers to “Shop FDA Approved Supplements” on Amazon.com and, above the Google ad at the top of the page, a slider of “sponsored” products under the heading “See FDA approved supplements.”

The Google ad linked to pages upon pages of search results on Amazon.com for “FDA approved supplements,” none of which are actually FDA approved because, as discussed, the FDA does not approve supplements. (At a time when half of Americans believe the FDA reviews supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are sold — it doesn’t, by the way — we really want to hammer that home.) But while you can still search “FDA approved supplements” on Amazon.com and be presented with over 20,000 “results,” including Horny Goat Weed, you can no longer get to this inventory of products from the Google ad.

RELATED: How Amazon Promotes, Profits from Deceptively Marketed Brain Supplements

In response to an inquiry by TINA.org, Google removed the ad as well as the carousel of sponsored products that appeared above it. Now, when you Google “FDA approved supplements,” it’s the FDA’s post that shows up first in search results.

A spokeswoman for Google said in a statement to TINA.org: “We have strict policies against ads that mislead users by making false health or medical claims. We have removed the violating ads.”

The Google spokeswoman did not respond to a question about the effectiveness of a new “Ad” label in distinguishing ads from organic search results. TINA.org noted how Google’s ad labels have changed — and arguably become less noticeable — in the last 13 years.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Find more of our coverage on supplements here.

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