What’s the FDA’s Logo Doing on Snow Teeth Whitening’s Packaging?
July 10th, 2019
UPDATE 7/25/19: Two weeks after TINA.org alerted the FDA to Snow Teeth Whitening’s improper use of its logo on product packaging, photos of the company’s kit in its marketing materials have been edited to remove the FDA logo seen above. (Compare this before and after from the website.) Snow has also scrubbed the phrase “FDA approved” from its website and Google ad following TINA.org’s complaint to the agency. Our original article follows.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Take Snow, an at-home LED teeth whitening kit that, depending on the ad, promises whiter teeth in either 9 or 10 minutes, with “no sensitivity” to boot. In response to an inquiry by TINA.org about a prominent FDA logo on its packaging, a Snow spokeswoman said the company knows “a large consulting firm that has connections across large retailers and regulation agencies” and the firm, which she did not name, has authorized it to use the FDA logo.
Yet the FDA Logo Policy is clear: “The FDA logo is for the official use of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and not for use on private sector materials.”
The FDA says this is to prevent sending the wrong message to consumers:
To the public, such use would send a message that FDA favors or endorses a private sector organization or the organization’s activities, products, services, and/or personnel (either overtly or tacitly), which FDA does not and cannot do. Unauthorized use of the FDA logo may violate federal law and subject those responsible to civil and/or criminal liability.
So is Snow violating federal law with respect to its use of the FDA logo on its packaging? (The company often posts photos of its teeth whitening kit on Instagram with the logo clearly visible.) When reached for comment by TINA.org, the FDA wouldn’t say.
“The FDA is concerned about websites and companies that may be misleading or fraudulent,” an agency spokeswoman said in an email. “But, the agency cannot comment on the legality of this situation without a thorough evaluation.”
On Wednesday, TINA.org called on the FDA to do just that — commence an investigation and take appropriate enforcement action. Because it’s not just that Snow is using the FDA logo on packaging; the company is also claiming on its website and in at least one Google ad that its kit is FDA approved when, as a Class I medical device, the kit has not been subject to rigorous review by the FDA, if it has been reviewed at all. The company appears to be incorrectly conflating “FDA registered” and “FDA approved.”
“We are registered and approved on the FDA website,” the Snow spokeswoman said in an email.
She pointed to two entries in a database on the FDA’s website for Snow’s holding company, Foresold LLC. But, as TINA.org pointed out, the database itself notes: “Registration of a device establishment, assignment of a registration number, or listing of a medical device does not in any way denote approval of the establishment or its products by the FDA.”
The Snow spokeswoman said the company is ending its contract with the unnamed consulting firm at the end of the year and as a result, the FDA logo will be removed from packaging. But that’s still months away and it remains unclear how Snow is currently allowed to display the FDA logo, which is actually an old logo (here’s the current one).
TINA.org looked into Snow’s use of the FDA logo after receiving a tip from a reader.
Additional red flags
There’s more you need to know about Snow. Such as:
- When Snow guarantees a whiter smile as it does in this recent Facebook ad, what it really means is that it will let you keep buying products until you’re satisfied with the results and if that time never comes, oh well. The company’s return policy states: “We offer a 100% results guarantee, not a 100% money-back guarantee. We are not allowed to accept returns or issue refunds in cash due to strict hygiene regulations. All refunds are issued as store credit (gift card). The 100% results guarantee means we can replace your whitening serum if you are unhappy with your whitening results.”
- While Snow advertises whiter teeth in minutes, it could actually take months if not longer to see results. An FAQ on the company’s website notes: “Results vary. Some teeth whiten dramatically in just a few days, while others can take a few months.”
- Claims of “no sensitivity” also may be misleading. Another FAQ states: “If you have sensitivity, then take a break for 1-3 days, and continue.”
Check back for updates.
Find more of our coverage on oral care here.