The Council for Responsible Nutrition Foundation (CRNF; Washington, DC)—a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization established to educate about the beneficial, safe, and responsible use of dietary supplements and their ingredients as part of a culture of wellness—will commit an additional $735,000 over three years to the National Advertising Division (NAD; New York City) program. This brings the total value of CRNF grants to NAD to above $2.8 million since the self-regulatory initiative launched in 2006.
NAD was designed to independently review dietary supplement advertisements for their truthful and non-misleading content. The program sets out a process whereby companies can challenge competitors whose ads appear misleading or unsubstantiated. In its review process, NAD looks for a “reasonable basis” for the challenged claims and, evaluating information the advertiser submits, makes recommendations as to whether the advertisement merits modification or discontinuation, or determines that the advertiser has presented evidence of adequate substantiation. Since its inception, NAD has issued almost 300 decisions on dietary supplement advertisements.
“I’m proud that our member companies remain steadfast in their commitment to support the effective self-regulation of this dietary supplement advertising program,” said CRNF President Steve Mister in a press statement. “By holding companies accountable to accurate advertising and promoting fair play within the business community, this program helps protect consumers and fosters trust in the marketplace.”
CRN even files its own challenges with NAD following submission of questionable ads and review by a voluntary task force of its members. In the press statement, Rend Al-Mondhiry, CRN’s associate general counsel and overseer of CRN filings, noted: “One of the reasons the CRN/NAD program works is that companies appreciate the opportunity to self-correct if there are concerns about their ads. The alternative to self-regulatory programs such as the NAD is more costly, onerous litigation, or government enforcement action. No company wants to be in that position.”
Indeed, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recognized the program as a “valuable complement” to the agency’s own enforcement efforts against fraud in supplement industry, noted C. Lee Peeler, executive vice president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and president & CEO of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC), which sets NAD policies and procedures. “The advertising industry has developed a uniquely effective self-regulatory model,” Peeler said in the press statement. “It’s a model that is good for consumers and good for ethical advertisers.”
According to NAD, companies comply with its recommendations at a rate of more than 90%; when a company refuses to engage in the process, NAD publicly refers the advertiser to the appropriate government agency, often the FTC.
As a service to the dietary supplement industry, CRN has developed a searchable compilation of all dietary supplement advertising decisions NAD has issued, available at no charge on CRN’s website; full decisions are available by subscription on ASRC’s website.