Companies that promote “detox tea” for its alleged weight-loss properties should be investigated over “misleading” and “predatory” advertising practices, Sen. Richard Blumenthal says in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission.
“These products, marketed to adolescents and young adults through celebrity endorsements and social media for weight loss and wellness, are ineffective at best and dangerous at worst,” Blumenthal writes.
He says many of the teas advertised on social media contain leaves and seeds of senna -- an over-the-counter laxative with potentially damaging side effects.
“Unfortunately, many manufacturers of these products are taking advantage of young people's insecurities and the power of celebrities on social media platforms to endorse their products,” Blumenthal writes.
He adds that celebrities “can reportedly earn six figure sums for a single social media post promoting a 'detox tea,' frequently without any expectation that these celebrities personally use these teas and expose themselves to the products' associated dangers.”
The lawmaker specifically called attention to a post by Kim Kardashian, who wrote in an ad that Flat Tummy Co.'s products were “helping me get my tummy back to flat.”
This January, Kardashian said on Instagram that she was “doing the chocolate program” using Flat Tummy Co products and that the program was giving her “a kick in the right direction.”
That post was marked with a disclaimer identifying it as an ad.
This isn't the first time the FTC has been urged to crack down on companies that use celebrities to advertise on social media -- or on weight-loss companies' use of influencer marketing.
In 2016, advocacy groups alleged in a letter to the FTC that companies such as Fab Fit Fun and Flat Tummy Tea “appear to employ dozens of celebrities and influencers to endorse their goods without any disclosure."
The following year, the FTC sent what it described as "reminder letters" to 90 influencers and marketers -- including companies such as Dunkin' Donuts, Puma, Chanel and Adidas as well as celebrities including Victoria Beckham, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Lynn Spears. At the time, the FTC told influencers to clearly disclose when they are paid to post endorsements.