Memphis Company Agrees to Settle FTC Charges of
Deceptively Advertising Its Diet Program

FTC News Release
June 25, 1998

TrendMark International, Inc., a Memphis, Tennessee company, and its owners, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made a host of unsubstantiated weight loss and health-related claims about their "THIN-THIN" Diet™ program. The THIN-THIN Diet™ is a combination of two weight loss products — NEURO-THIN™ and LIPO-THIN™ — that purportedly cause weight loss. The main ingredient in LIPO-THIN™ is chitin, a natural fiber made from the ground-up hydrolyzed exoskeletons of shellfish. NEURO-THIN™ is made primarily of various amino acids. The FTC alleges that the respondents did not have adequate substantiation for their ad claims that consumers using the "THIN-THIN" Diet™ program would lose significant amounts of weight or experience other health-related benefits without changing their diet, and that these claims were validated by scientific studies. The proposed settlement of the charges would prohibit TrendMark and its owners from misrepresenting the results of any weight loss program or product they offer, and require them to have scientific data to back up any claims about the health benefits, performance or efficacy of any food, drug or device.

The FTC's complaint which details the allegations names TrendMark Inc., doing business as TrendMark International, William McCormack and E. Robert Gates. TrendMark is a multi-level network marketing company that markets various dietary supplements and other products directly to consumers and through numerous individual distributors. According to the complaint, the respondents advertised the THIN-THIN Diet™ in unsolicited commercial e-mail sent to users of America OnLine (AOL) and on its website. Their advertisements contained statements such as:

The FTC alleged that through the use of such claims, TrendMark represented that customers would achieve significant weight loss without a change in diet. In addition, the ads state that by taking NEURO-THIN™ and/or LIPO-THIN™, consumers could lower LDL cholesterol and boost HDL cholesterol; promote healing of ulcers and lesions; reduce levels of uric acid in the blood; and improve cardiovascular health, among other things. The FTC alleges that these representations were unsubstantiated. The ads also stated that the representations made by the respondents are backed by scientific studies, when, in fact, the FTC alleges, most of the studies submitted by the respondents were test tube studies and studies of rats that did not relate adequately to their advertising claims. The ads further cited endorsements from consumers who were purported to have benefitted from using NEURO-THIN™ and LIPO-THIN™. In fact, the FTC alleges, the respondents failed to disclose that some of the testimonials cited in the ads were made by TrendMark distributors or their spouses ™ people who had a material connection to or were not independent from the respondents.

The proposed order to settle these charges, announced today for public comment, would prohibit TrendMark and its owners from making each of the specific claims alleged in the complaint for their THIN-THIN Diet™. The proposed order would also prohibit the respondents from misrepresenting the health benefits, performance or efficacy of NEURO-THIN™ and LIPO-THIN™, or any food, drug or device without competent and reliable scientific substantiation. In addition, the respondents would be prohibited from misrepresenting the results of any test, study or research, and would be required to disclose clearly and prominently any material connection between a product endorser and the respondents.

The consent agreement would allow the respondents to use certain claims that are approved for labels by the Food and Drug Administration's Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990.

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