For Release: January 4, 1988

Franchisor of Food Supplement Stores Prohibited from
Making False Claims, under Consent Agreement with FTC

The Federal Trade Commission charged in a complaint that a franchisor of food supplement stores falsely claimed that three of its food supplements would enable users to lose weight, build muscle, or promote healing. A consent agreement settling the charges prohibits Great Earth International Inc. from making certain claims about the supplements' effectiveness.

Great Earth has about 150 retail outlets coast to coast, 140 of which are owned by franchisees and licensees and the remainder by the company. The Santa Ana, Calif.-based company sells food supplements, including pills, capsules, powders or liquids containing vitamins, minerals and other products. The company and its franchisors advertise their products throughout the United States. According to trade sources, Great Earth's sales in 1984 were about $45 million.

According to the complaint, Great Earth falsely claimed that three of its products would enable users to lose weight, build muscle, burn fat, promote healing, protect against mental and physical fatigue and strengthen the immune system. The company's ads stated that these benefits result because the products stimulate the body to release human growth hormone from the pituitary gland. However, the complaint charges the products do not stimulate the pituitary gland in that way and do not provide the promised results.

The company's ads for GHR Formula-P.M. claimed: "Lose while you snooze;" and "When you go to sleep, GHR Formula-P.M. goes to work burning away fat, building lean muscle tissue and firming." Great Earth is currently selling this product under the name "Tri-Amino Plus P.M." Great Earth's ads for L-Ornithine and L- Arginine claimed: "They help speed up healing and protect against physical and mental fatigue." The complaint charges that these claims are false.

Great Earth represented in its ads and promotional materials that it had substantiation for its claims but, according to the complaint, the company did not.

Under the consent agreement, Great Earth must have substantiation for claims that any product will:

  • cure or prevent any disease or other undesirable physical or mental condition;
  • assist a user in losing or controlling weight or fat;
  • improve or strengthen any body organ or function; or
  • eliminate or reduce any harmful substance or organisms that may be found in the body or environment.

In addition, the consent agreement prohibits Great Earth from making certain claims for GHR Formula-P.M., L-Ornithine, or L-Arginine, including claims that they will:

  • stimulate production or release of human growth hormone;
  • help users achieve rapid or substantial muscular development;
  • promote weight loss during sleep; or
  • promote burning of fat or building, firming or toning muscles.

The consent agreement also prohibits Great Earth from using the name "Growth Hormone Releaser," "GHR," or any similar name unless it has substantiation that the product stimulates the body or pituitary gland to release significantly greater amounts of human growth hormone in users than in non-users.

The FTC's Chicago Regional Office handled the investigation.

The consent agreement is scheduled to appear in the Federal Register Jan. 5. It will be subject to public comment until March 7, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final.

Comments should be addressed to the Office of the Secretary, FTC, 6th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

Copies of the agreement, the complaint and an analysis of the agreement are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY 202-326-2502.

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Dee Ellison,
Office of Public Affairs,


    William P. Golden
    Chicago Regional Office

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This article was posted on December 23, 2000.