CANADA – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent warning letters to two trade associations and 12 health influencers regarding insufficient disclosures in their Instagram and TikTok posts promoting the safety of the artificial sweetener aspartame or the consumption of sugar-containing products.
The American Beverage Association (AmeriBev) and The Canadian Sugar Institute, both trade groups, received letters expressing concerns about potential violations of the FTC Act.
The FTC is alarmed by the lack of adequate disclosures regarding the influencers’ apparent promotion of the safety of aspartame or the consumption of sugar-containing products.
This action aligns with the recent revision of the Commission’s Guides for Endorsements and Testimonials and underscores the FTC’s commitment to monitor influencer marketing practices.
Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, emphasized the responsibility of trade groups in ensuring influencers disclose their affiliations transparently.
“It’s irresponsible for any trade group to hire influencers to tout its members’ products and fail to ensure that the influencers come clean about that relationship, especially when made by registered dieticians and others upon whom people rely for advice about what to eat and drink,” he said.
The warning letters to individual influencers, including Valerie Agyeman, Nichole Andrews, Leslie Bonci, Keri Gans, Stephanie Grasso, Cara Harbstreet, Andrea Miller, Idrees Mughal, Adam Pecoraro, Mary Ellen Phipps, Jenn Messina, and Lindsay Pleskot, detail concerns about their posts on Instagram and TikTok.
The influencers are cautioned about either not disclosing material connections adequately or using ambiguous language in their posts.
The letters highlight the FTC’s expectations for clear and conspicuous disclosure of any material connections in paid endorsements.
The influencers are reminded of potential civil penalties, reaching up to $50,120 (U.S$ 36,577) per violation, for future failures to disclose material connections adequately.
They are requested to contact FTC staff within 15 days and provide details on the actions taken or planned to address the concerns raised.
This enforcement effort underscores the FTC’s commitment to safeguarding consumer interests, promoting transparency in advertising, and holding both influencers and trade groups accountable for their roles in the endorsement and promotion of products.