The Council for Responsible Nutrition Foundation (CRNF; Washington, D.C.) and the BBB National Program’s National Advertising Division (NAD) have announced that the CRN/NAD program will conclude on July 1, 2020. The CRN/NAD program, launched in 2006, is a self-regulatory initiative monitoring and promoting truthful and accurate advertising of dietary supplements. Since it began, the program has closed more than 360 cases.
The program was unique and effective at ad-monitoring because of the peer-to-peer process that encouraged cooperation and allowed companies the opportunity to voluntarily change non-compliant behavior before facing potential consequences from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or any other agency. “Though the CRN/NAD program has come to its end, our partnership with NAD continues,” said Megan Olsen, vice president and associate general counsel, CRN, in a press release. “The responsible dietary supplement industry recognizes the role truthful and accurate advertising plays in leveling the playing field for honest advertisers and in providing consumers with accurate information about products they rely on to improve their health and wellness.”
“We appreciate CRN’s leadership in supporting truthful and transparent advertising for the dietary supplement industry,” added Laura Brett, vice president of NAD. “Our partnership highlights the value that independent and voluntary advertising self-regulation can bring in promoting fair competition in industries that are evolving and rapidly changing.”
Despite the program’s end, CRN encourages responsible industry to remain vigilant and consider filing challenges against companies making egregious claims with NAD. Filing challenges with NAD costs less than litigation and typically moves much faster than a court decision. Not only that, but NAD has developed the Fast-Track SWIFT (Single Well-defined Issue Fast Track), providing companies with an even faster method of addressing particular advertising challenges. Challenges eligible for the SWIFT program include: lack of disclosure of material connection between an influencer and advertiser, content that looks editorial but is really an advertisement, misleading sales and pricing claims, and simple express claims.
“CRN and NAD’s dietary supplement advertising review program has played a key role in self-regulatory efforts and has contributed to creating a marketplace that consumers and industry can trust,” said Olsen. “Responsible industry’s participation has been critical to the program’s success in the past and we urge companies to remain supportive of NAD’s continued role and file challenges against companies making unsubstantiated or deceptive advertising claims. CRN, NAD, and its members recognize the impressive achievements of the program over the past 15 years and its role in supporting the dietary supplement industry and consumers.”
The program saw a great deal of success throughout the past 15 years. For one, the program is responsible for over 300 decision involving a range of dietary supplement claims, from traditional industry claims such as weight loss and sports performance to less common health claims such as sun protection, breast feeding, sexual dysfunction, tinnitus, computer eye strain, and those seeking the courage to speak publicly. As a result, the CRN/NAD program has created an extensive library of claim substantiation guidance, a significantly valuable resource for clear and consistent claim substantiation in the future. The program has also seen a rise in company-to-company competitor challenges, which means that there are other watchdogs on the case, not just CRN and NAD.