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Gerber falsely advertises its Good Start Gentle formula protects babies from developing allergies, agency charges

Cecilia 3 Months OldThe Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Gerber Products Co., charging that the company falsely advertised its Good Start Gentle formula will protect babies with a family history of allergies from developing allergies.

The agency also said health claims weren’t FDA-approved, as Gerber claimed.
The FTC wants to stop Gerber from making the false allergy-prevention claims and provide refunds to consumers.

“Parents trusted Gerber to tell the truth about the health benefits of its formula, and the company’s ads failed to live up to that trust,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Gerber didn’t have evidence to back up its claim that Good Start Gentle formula reduces the risk of babies developing their parents’ allergies.

In its lawsuit, the FTC alleges that since 2011, Gerber has advertised its Good Start Gentle formula on television, in magazines, and online. Good Start Gentle sells for about $24 for a 23.2-ounce package of powdered formula.

Good Start Gentle is made mostly with hydrolyzed whey proteins. Gerber claims that feeding babies this formula, instead of formula made with cow’s milk proteins, will prevent or reduce the risk that they’ll develop allergies.

In its ads, Gerber promotes Good Start Gentle by saying:

•    “You want your baby to have your imagination…Your smile…Your eyes…Not your allergies.”

Also, a sticker on the package states that Good Start Gentle Formula is the:

•    “1st & ONLY Routine Formula TO REDUCE THE RISK OF DEVELOPING ALLERGIES.”

The agency’s lawsuit charges that Gerber lacked scientific information to make these claims.

In 2009, Gerber petitioned the FDA for permission to make a claim connecting PWHP with the reduced risk of one type of allergy, atopic dermatitis, in infants. The FDA allowed Gerber to make the claim but only if Gerber qualified its statement to make it clear that there is “little scientific evidence” for the relationship.

Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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