February 28, 2012
Amway, the controversial multi-level marketing company, is facing the prospect of a class action lawsuit over its Nutrilite line of liquid dietary supplements.
Labels for Nutrilite’s “fruits & vegetables 2GO Twist Tubes” claim in big print that the product represents two servings of fruits and vegetables. The fine print clarifies that a dose “contains the antioxidant equivalent of 2 servings.” Either way, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest says that the company’s 10-milliliter tubes do not come close to conveying the same health benefits as real fruit or vegetables. Similarly, Amway claims that Nutrilite’s Immunity Twist Tubes are an “immune system booster” that will “protect your cells.” (The Strawberry Kiwi flavor has neither strawberry nor kiwi, despite the attractive pictures of those fruits on the box.) The immunity claim is unlawful, according to CSPI, because it implies the product will prevent disease. It won’t, says the group.
The watchdog group will sue the Ada, Michigan-based company unless it stops advertising unsubstantiated nutrition and health benefits in connection with “fruits and vegetables 2GO” and “Immunity” Twist Tubes. Also, both product lines contain the artificial sweetener sucralose, despite a print advertisement for “fruits & vegetables 2GO” that claims the product has no artificial ingredients. Twist Tubes are meant to be diluted in 16 ounces of water before consuming.
“Amway is sending a horrible health message to American consumers when it holds out its Twist Tubes as a short cut to getting the health benefits of real food,” said CSPI staff litigator Seema Rattan. “People who want the health benefits of two servings of fruits and vegetables are far better off eating two servings of fruits and vegetables. And no one should be deceived into thinking that these pricey little tubes will prevent them from getting sick.”
A 20-dose pack of Nutrilite “fruits & vegetables 2GO Twist Tubes” costs $19.99 plus $7.95 shipping and handling if purchased at amway.com; Immunity Twist Tubes cost $12.35 plus $7.95 shipping and handling. Otherwise, the products are not available in stores but are sold by Amway distributors.
“Fruits & vegetables 2GO” has “the antioxidant equivalent of two of the 9–13 daily servings of fruits and vegetables your body needs,” according to Amway. But there’s far more to fruits and vegetables than just antioxidants, according to CSPI. Neither “fruits & vegetables 2GO” nor Immunity Twist Tubes has any fiber, for instance. Real fruits and vegetables have up to 8,000 phytochemicals that may provide health benefits—something that supplements simply cannot mimic, according to CSPI. Vitamins, like the A, B, and C vitamins in Twist Tubes, account for only a small fraction of the antioxidant activity in whole fruits and vegetables. While the Immunity Twist Tube contains 1,000 mg of vitamin C, human tissues are generally saturated with vitamin C at 400 mg per day, and any excess is typically excreted.
In a letter to Amway Chairman Steve Van Andel, CSPI says that Amway’s labeling and advertising for Nutrilite products violates federal regulations and consumer protection laws in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey, and California.
CSPI’s litigation unit has successfully prompted several major food companies, including Quaker, Frito-Lay, Procter & Gamble, Tropicana, and Pinnacle Foods, to halt a variety of misleading labeling or marketing practices. In 2008, CSPI joined litigation that returned approximately $12 million in refunds to consumers who purchased the dietary supplement Airborne; labels and ads falsely claimed the product would cure and prevent colds.