FTC Sues Gerber For False Advertising Over Claims Its Formula Can Prevent Allergies

050000216673Parents typically choose baby food based on the idea that it’s nutritious and good for their child. So it makes sense that consumers might look for formulas that can prevent illness or even allergies. But those claims aren’t always truthful according to the Federal Trade Commission, which is suing Gerber Products Co. for falsely advertising its Good Start Gentle.

The FTC announced that it has charged Gerber, also doing business as Nestle Nutrition, with deceptive advertising related to its claim that Good Start Gentle formula prevents or reduces the risk of children developing allergies.

According to the complaint, the New Jersey-based company misled consumers by claiming that feeding Good Start Gentle formula to infants with a family history of allergies prevents or reduces the risk that the child will develop said allergies.

In its advertisements, Gerber claims that feeding babies Good Start Gentle formula, which is made with partially hydrolyzed whey proteins, instead of formula made with inapt cow’s milk proteins would prevent or reduce the risk of a child developing allergies.

Ads included pitches such as: “You want your baby to have your imagination…Your smile…Your eyes…Not your allergies.”

A sticker on packages of the formula also reiterated its claims, “1st & ONLY Routine Formula TO REDUCE THE RISK OF DEVELOPING ALLERGIES.”

The FTC’s complaint charges that Gerber lacked the scientific substantiation to make these general allergy-prevention claims.

Additionally, the FTC alleges that Gerber falsely advertised that Good Start Gentle’s health claims were FDA-approved.

According to the FTC, back in 2011 Gerber did petition the FDA for permission to make claims connecting its whey protein with a reduced risk of one type of allergy – atopic dermatitis – in infants.

The FDA allowed Gerber to make the narrow claim only if the company carefully qualified its statement to make it clear that there was “little scientific evidence” for the relationship.

However, the FTC claims ads and packages of the formula featured a gold badge stating that Good Start Gentle is the “1st and Only” formula that “Meets FDA Qualified Health Claim.”

Officials with Gerber released a statement Thursday defending its use of the claims and reiterating that the formula can help prevent baby eczema, the Associated Press reports.

“Gerber always has and will continue to treat its mission of delivering nutrition and benefits to infants as its top priority,” Kevin Goldberg, vice president and general counsel for the company wrote in the statement. “We believe the information conveyed in our marketing is important for parents who have children at risk for atopic dermatitis, the most common allergy in infancy.”

FTC Charges Gerber with Falsely Advertising Its Good Start Gentle Formula Protects Infants from Developing Allergies [FTC]

FTC Sues Gerber Over Claims on Infant Formula [The Associated Press]