TriVita markets 32-ounce bottles of the “prickly pear” fruit drink, derived from the Nopal cactus, for up to $39.99 plus shipping and handling. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) complaint, advertisements on the defendants’ websites tout “Inflammation Relief without a Prescription.” The defendants infomercials featuring celebrity endorser and former supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, market Nopalea as an “anti-inflammatory wellness drink” that relieves pain, reduces and relieves joint and muscle swelling, improves breathing and alleviates respiratory problems, as well as relieves skin conditions.
Trivita’s former Chief Science Officer, Brazos Minshew, also appears in the infomercials and links inflammation to allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes. He notes in one of the infomercials that “over 200 articles published and archived at the National Institute of Health demonstrate one thing: the Nopal cactus will reduce inflammation.” The infomercials also feature testimonials by satisfied consumers who are actually paid employees of defendants, according to the complaint.
“These kinds of unfounded claims are unacceptable, particularly when they impact consumers’ health,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Advertisers who cannot back up their claims with competent and reliable scientific evidence are violating the law,” according to their latest press release today.
The defendants are charged with violating Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act by:
- Making unsupported claims that Nopalea significantly improves breathing and relieves sinus infections and other respiratory conditions, and provides significant relief from pain, swelling of the joints and muscles, and psoriasis and other skin conditions.
- Making false claims that the health benefits of Nopalea were proven by clinical studies.
- Failing to disclose that supposedly ordinary consumer endorsers were in fact TriVita sales people who received commissions for selling the defendants’ products.
Besides TriVita, Inc., the complaint names as defendants marketing company Ellison Media Company, and Michael R. and Susan R. Ellison, who control both companies.
Consumers should carefully evaluate advertising for products that claim to cure diseases. It is recommended to talk to your health care provider, especially if taking prescribed medication daily. Supplements can cause a reaction along with certain medications.