Cactus juice company to refund millions after prickly health claims

trivita-nopolea-1On this hot and humid summer day here in Maine, let me offer you a delicious drink that relieves pain, improves breathing and respiratory problems, reduces joint and muscle swelling, and makes your skin look great, too. OK, maybe not.

The Federal Trade Commission says health claims made by dietary supplement company TriVita, Inc., about its cactus juice cocktail Nopalea are unfounded.

Today the FTC announced TriVita has agreed to give consumers $3.5 million in refunds to settle charges that the company deceived consumers with unsupported claims about its 32-ounce bottle of “natural and nutritious” Nopalea, which sells for up to $39.99 plus shipping and handling.

“These kinds of unfounded claims are unacceptable, particularly when they impact consumers’ health,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a news release. “Advertisers who cannot back up their claims with competent and reliable scientific evidence are violating the law.”

According to the FTC, the defendants are charged with violating Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act by:

  • “making unsupported claims that Nopalea significantly improves breathing and relieves sinus infections and other respiratory conditions, and provides significant relief from pain, swelling of the joints and muscles, and psoriasis and other skin conditions.
  • making false claims that the health benefits of Nopalea were proven by clinical studies.
  • failing to disclose that supposedly ordinary consumer endorsers were in fact TriVita sales people who received commissions for selling the defendants’ products.”

The complaint also says infomercials with “satisfied consumers” are really paid employees.

FTC spokeswoman Betsy Lordan told me on the phone Monday afternoon this settlement is part of a big effort to stop “over-hyped health claims.”

Lordan says the FTC is working to figure out the best way to get refunds to consumers who’ve purchased Nopalea, and the Commission will soon release additional details.

An email to TriVita wasn’t returned when this blog was posted, but I will update if I get a response or statement regarding the settlement.

Jon Chrisos

About Jon Chrisos

Award-winning journalist Jon Chrisos is the investigative and consumer reporter at CBS 13 in Portland. He also anchors weeknights at 5:30. Chrisos is “On Your Side” investigating the stories that make a difference in your life. He’s passionate about helping those who’ve been wronged, exposing government waste, asking tough questions, and uncovering the truth.