Federal regulators Tuesday ordered a California-based fad weight-loss company to return $26.5 million to consumers who bought its product — a sprinkle-on powder for food that promised users would lose weight without exercising.
Sensa Products, based in Manhattan Beach, sold a sprinkle-on food additive to was supposed to enhance taste and smell and make users feel fuller faster, the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday.
Regulators, however, said the company used faulty science in its marketing to mislead consumers. The FTC also announced a settlement with two other companies for other deceptively marketed weight-loss products.
“Resolutions to lose weight are easy to make but hard to keep,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “And the chances of being successful just by sprinkling something on your food, rubbing cream on your thighs, or using a supplement are slim to none. The science just isn’t there.”
The FTC accused Sensa Products, its parent firm Sensa, Inc., and two individuals — Kristin Chadwick, the parent company's chief executive, and Alan Hirsch, a doctor who was part-owner — of deceptive advertising.
Users paid about $60 for one-month supply of Sensa products, which were sold online and at retail chains that included Costco and GNC. U.S. retail sales between 2008 and 2012 totaled more than $364 million, regulators said.
Regulators said the company paid consumers for their endorsements of the product. It said Hirsch, who conducted studies cited in the ads and author of a promotional book, gave expert endorsements that were not supported by science.
In a statement, Sensa said it was incorporating changes to its advertising to comply with the FTC order and that it stands by its products.
The agency also charged two other companies with deceptive marketing: L'Occitane, which claimed that its skin cream would help users lose fat, and HCG Diet Direct, for marketing a human hormone used to lose weight.
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