Airborne settles with 32 AGs over deceptive marketing claims

Chris Rizo Dec. 16, 2008, 11:28am

Lisa Madigan (D-Ill.)

Jerry Brown (D-Calif.)

(Legal Newsline)--The maker of Airborne has agreed to pay $7 million to settle allegations by 32 state attorneys general that it made false claims about the benefits of its cold prevention, sore throat and allergy remedies.

Airborne Health Inc., as a part of its multistate settlement, has agreed to discontinue any claims about the "health benefit, performance, efficacy or safety" of its products in preventing and treating colds and other ailments.

"Consumers who purchased Airborne to treat their colds were not getting their money's worth as there is no proof that Airborne can lessen your cold symptoms," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

The $7 million settlement marks the largest payment to date in a multistate action with a dietary supplement producer.

For more than a decade, Airborne has manufactured and marketed "Airborne Effervescent Health Formula," also known as "Airborne Original," which contains 17 herbs and nutrients purportedly formulated to fight coughs and colds. The company subsequently expanded the brand name to include several additional tablet and powdered supplements.

The attorneys general, let by Bob Cooper of Tennessee, claimed that Airborne's marketing materials created the impression that the products were approved over-the-counter drugs.

"Airborne dramatically misrepresented its products as cold remedies without any scientific evidence to back up its claims," California Attorney General Brown said. "Under this agreement, the company will stop advertisements that suggest that its products are a cure for the common cold."

The settlement with the state attorneys general follows a $30 million settlement the company made to settle similar allegations by the Federal Trade Commission.

In a statement, Bonita Springs, Fla.-based Airborne said the settlement will not affect the ability of consumers to buy their products because the agreement "deals with language that had already been dropped from our advertising and labeling."

In settling, the company admitted to no wrongdoing.

"Even though we believe the legal claims against Airborne were unjustified, we wanted to close the book on these legal and regulatory issues," said Airborne Chief Executive Victoria Knight-McDowell.

In addition to Illinois and California, the states involved in the settlement include Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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