No appetite for hoodia hoodwinking

  • Updated: November 12, 2011 - 6:10 PM

Two New Jersey companies that the Federal Trade Commission said made deceptive weight-loss claims have agreed to settle charges brought against them, according to an FTC announcement this month.

Nutraceuticals International LLC, Stella Labs LLC and three individuals, David J. Romeo, Craig Payton and Deborah B. Vickery, supplied manufacturers of weight-loss supplements with a substance they falsely claimed was derived from the hoodia plant, the FTC stated.

According to the Mayo Clinic, hoodia, an African succulent, has not been proved to help with weight loss.

The group claimed that their product was scientifically proven to suppress appetite and reduce caloric intake by 1,000 to 2,000 calories per day.

The FTC imposed a $22.5 million judgment against Romeo, which will be suspended when he forfeits his Vermont vacation home and assigns to the FTC the right to collect on $635,000 in business loans owed to him. Romeo is banned from making any weight-loss claims while marketing products.

Payton isn't required to forfeit any assets because they were already seized in a unrelated federal drug case. Payton is banned from marketing food, drugs or dietary supplements.

The FTC imposed a $4 million judgment on Vickery, but suspended it as long as her claim of an inability to pay is true.

JANE FRIEDMANN

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