The marketers of the fruit drink Nopalea have agreed to pay $3.5 million in consumer refunds to settle FTC charges that they deceptively marketed the product as scientifically proven to reduce various ailments, including pain. The marketers named in the FTC complaint are dietary supplement maker TriVita, Inc., Ellison Media Company, and Michael R. and Susan R. Ellison, who control both companies.
The FTC’s complaint alleged that TruVita did not have the clinical studies to support the claims they were making about the health benefits of Nopalea, a fruit drink derived the nopal cactus, also know as the prickly pear. Nopalea cost up to $39.99 for a 32-ounce bottle.
According to the FTC complaint, TruVita’s unsupported claimes included that Nopalea improves breathing and relieves sinus infections and other respiratory conditions, provides relief from pain, swelling of the joints and muscles, and provides relief from psoriasis and other skin conditions.
The FTC also alleged that TruVita failed to disclose that “ordinary consumer” endorsers were TriVita sales people who received commissions for selling the defendants’ products.
In addition to the $3.5 million payment, the settlement bars the marketers from making the health claims alleged in the complaint when marketing Nopalea or any food, drug or dietary supplement without human clinical tests conducted by qualified researchers; making any health claims without competent and reliable scientific evidence; misrepresenting that health benefits are clinically proven when they are not; and failing to disclose any material connection between endorsers of their products and themselves.