Published: January 2015

ID #: 70755

Journal: Am J Public Health

Authors: Rutkow L, Vernick JS, Edwards DM, Rodman SO, Barry CL

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Deceptive health claims on foods and beverages are prohibited by law, and may be addressed through litigation or government regulatory efforts. This article analyzes legal actions against potentially deceptive health claims and presents recommendations for those interested in pursuing legal approaches. Researchers identified and reviewed 115 health claims on foods and beverages marketed to youths ages 3 to 18 that have been the subject of state, federal, or private litigation or government regulation from January 1, 2005 through June 30, 2013. They found that 77 percent of legal actions involved litigation and 18 percent involved governmental warnings. The majority of litigation (67%) was initiated by individuals. Most actions (64%) were brought under state legal authority, with 60 percent relying upon state consumer protection or false advertising laws. Using findings from this comprehensive review, the researchers developed recommendations to assist those interested in pursuing legal approaches. To improve the likelihood of success, they recommend determining the scientific support for the claim, carefully selecting plaintiffs who have experienced harm as a result of the health claim, and identifying health claims for which legal action holds the greatest public health impact.

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