Settlement in Dietary Supplement Fraud Case

On February 2, 2011, District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley announced the largest multi-jurisdictional dietary supplement settlement in California history.

Supplement distributor Irwin Naturals, Inc., has agreed to pay a total of $2.65 million in costs, civil penalties and restitution in the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the District Attorney Offices in Alameda, Orange, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Marin, Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Monterey, and Shasta counties.

The District Attorneys' lawsuit accused Irwin of making false and misleading representations in connection with the marketing and sale of certain of its products, including Dual Action Cleanse, Fast Action Hoodia Diet, and the 10-Day Hoodia Diet. The labeling information states that Hoodia contains Hoodia gordonii. However, testing by laboratories with whom the District Attorneys contracted showed the Hoodia products did not contain any Hoodia gordonii, effectively misbranding the products.

Irwin was also marketing and selling certain dietary supplements containing lead in violation of Proposition 65, "The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986" passed by direct voter initiative in 1986. Laboratory tests conducted as part of the investigation revealed that certain lots of several Irwin products contained over 0.5 micrograms of lead. Those products included Green Tea Fat Metabolizer, Green Tea Fat Burner, System Six, Green Tea Fat Meltdown and Green Tea Fat Burner. California Law requires that all products containing more than one-half of a microgram of lead be marked with warning labels.

Irwin has stopped selling or reformulated all of these products since being alerted to the issue, and will be required to include warning information with all products marketed to California residents containing specific lead levels in the future.

District Attorney O'Malley stated, "The Alameda County District Attorney's Office is committed to protecting California consumers from deceptive advertising and potentially harmful products in the dietary supplement market place."

Prosecutor Scott Patton noted, "State action is necessary in this area because the Federal government does not regulate the dietary supplement market. Unlike prescription medication, dietary supplements do not need to be pre-approved by the FDA before they can be sold to consumers. A dietary supplement can be sold in the United States without prior government approval or proof that it is either safe or effective for its intended use."

As part of the disposition, the Defendant is required to pay restitution to consumers who filed documented complaints with Irwin, the Better Business Bureau, the California Attorney General or any of the District Attorney Offices involved in the lawsuit between July 1, 2006 and January 31, 2011 and who have not already received refunds.

Irwin has set up a special telephone number to answer questions concerning restitution or other matters generated from the public as a result of this stipulated settlement. 1-800-941-9098. Prosecutor Scott Patton can be reached at the DA's Office at (510) 569-9281.

Posted on Feb 2, 2011