(InvestigateTV) - Products to keep hands and surfaces germ-free or prevent disease are flying off store shelves in a coronavirus-inspired buying frenzy.
But consumers should beware – attorneys general and federal agencies warn that some companies are trying to cash in on fear.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission earlier this month sent warning letters to seven companies that the products they are selling may violate federal laws because of deceptive or scientifically dubious claims they’ve made on package labels.
The companies all sold products they claimed could prevent or treat coronavirus, according to a news release from the agencies. The products included teas, essential oils and colloidal silver.
But there is no approved treatment or drugs for the COVID-19 virus that has caused a global pandemic.
“What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a written statement.
Vivify Holistic Clinic, with an Ontario, Canada, address, was one of the seven companies.
Federal officials said the company set up a website called CoronaVirusDefense.com and was selling products there.
The website has since been shut down, but a search of the internet archive shows that in early March, it was promoting materials that read like scientific studies promoting the values of some fruits and plants.
One was titled “Herbal Treatment for Coronavirus Infections.”
“There had always been multiple disclaimers on the website that we were not making any medical claims about the multi-part protocol, that it is not a cure for any disease, that it does not replace medical treatment," a company spokesman wrote in an email to InvestigateTV.
He also said as soon as his company received the letter from the federal government, company officials “took several steps to comply.”
The company’s Facebook page also has gone dark.
Federal officials also warned Vital Silver about suspect claims made on its Facebook page about the benefits of ionic silver.
The post from the Melbourne, Florida-based company read: “It’s actually widely acknowledged in both science and the medical industry that ionic silver kills coronaviruses. And it’s now known that the Chinese are employing ionic silver in their fight against the spread of coronavirus.”
A Vital Silver spokeswoman said in an email that she was "unaware that my company was violating FDA standards, or that any of the statements could be considered fraudulent." She removed all posts concerning COVID-19 from social media posts and the company's website.
The other companies issued a warning letter are:
- Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., based in the United Kingdom, which was selling essential oils and promoting their COVID-19 benefits. It did not return messages for comment.
- N-Ergetics, based in Atoka, Oklahoma, which was selling colloidal silver on its website. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
- HerbalAmy, based in Nampa, Idaho, which offered a range of “coronavirus protocol products." The company did not respond to requests for comment.
- The Jim Bakker Show, based in Blue Eye, Missouri, selling silver-laced products the government said made false claims of COVID-19 treatment and prevention.
- GuruNada LLC, based in Buena Park, California, which was selling essential oil products online to treat the virus. In an emailed response to InvestigateTV, a company spokesman said, “Upon becoming aware of the joint FDA/FTC warning letter posted by the FDA, GuruNanda immediately removed any information related to treatment or prevention of COVID-19 and the coronavirus. GuruNanda, at all times, strives to be compliant with the law and will continue to work with the FDA and the FTC to ensure compliance with the applicable laws and regulations.”
The federal government also is looking at scams related to COVID-19.
In an online post, the FTC mentioned several of the scams it’s seeing, including companies setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take consumers’ money and personal information.
Consumer watchdogs say buyers need to be diligent about not falling prey to a scammer.
“They know that the human emotion is to protect our families and protect our neighbors, protect our employees. I'll buy this because somebody said that it worked. Don't get wrapped up in that,” said Barry Moore, president and chief executive officer at the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia.
“Friends, there’s no cure yet identified. Please don’t take anything. Because it’s not going to cure you. And you can’t take some sort of pill to keep you from getting it. Doesn’t happen at least not yet. The CDC will let us know."
Full Statement from Vivify Holistic:
Full statement from Vital Silver: