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'Genetically-guided' supplements company settles after Federal Trade Commission lawsuit

20 January 2014

By Cait McDonagh

Appeared in BioNews 738

A biotechnology company that produces genetically customised nutritional supplements has settled charges of deceptive advertising with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over claims that its products could treat a number of ailments and diseases.

GeneLink Biosciences, and its former subsidiary, Foru International, marketed skincare serums and nutritional supplements, each costing over US $100 a month. Based on DNA obtained from a cheek swab, the products were designed to be 'customised' to each customer's genetic make up.

However, the companies were charged with deceptive advertising after the FTC alleged that they had violated US federal law by making 'false or unsupported health claims about their genetically customized products'.

In its complaint, the FTC outlined how company-approved marketing stated that the skincare products were scientifically proven and that their nutritional supplements could compensate for a person's genetic 'disadvantages'. The companies also claimed through testimonials that the nutritional products could treat conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and insomnia, explained the FTC.

In accordance with the settlement made, the companies will no longer be able to state that their products can help with medical conditions without conducting at least two properly controlled and reviewed trials. In addition, both GeneLink and Foru International will be audited every two years for the next twenty years to ensure that they're compliant with the settlement.

Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the statement: 'This case is about the consequences of making false claims. It doesn't matter whether the claims deal with the benefits of direct-to-consumer genetic testing or the privacy of personal information. It's against the law to deceive people about your product and to make promises you don't keep'.

The Federal Trade Commission also brought charges of failing to secure customer information properly, including genetic data, bank account information and social security numbers, claiming that up to 30,000 customers could have been affected.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Federal Trade Commission (press release) | 07 January 2014
 
The Scientist | 14 January 2014
 
The Verge | 11 January 2014
 

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