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Oprah, Dr. Oz Sue Marketers Over Acai Berry Claims

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, August 20, 2009 11:40 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Acai Berry, Antioxidants, Dietary Supplements, Oprah, Dr. Oz

The acai berry has been promoted across the internet with the help of Oprah and Dr. Oz, who are not suing to stop it.


IMAGE SOURCE: Acai Berry Free Trial Web site

As Seen On Oprah

They are the magic words - “As Seen on Oprah” - that are guarantee to sell any product, from books to face creams.

Oprah is sick of it.

She and Dr. Mehmet Oz are suing more than 40 companies to fight claims that they endorse acai berry products.

She and the doctor, a Columbia University heart surgeon, talked about the acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berry on the show last year. After that an explosion of products hit popular culture suggesting the acai berry is the answer to weight loss, sexual dysfunction, and a longer life.

But the two claim theirs was not an endorsement but a discussion, so Winfrey and Dr. Oz have filed suit against the companies who have promoted products using the famous duo as an endorsement.

"Defendants are fabricating quotes or falsely purporting to speak in Dr. Oz's and/or Ms. Winfrey's voice about specific brands and products that neither of them has endorsed," the complaint reads and ABC News reports.

Speaking exclusively to “Good Morning America” Dr. Oz says the claims have been “hurtful.”

"Many Americans have seen images of me, and Oprah and others supporting, it would appear, products that actually don't work in the ways that are described," Oz said. "And more importantly, when consumers trusting us try to buy these products over the Web, what they end up getting are fake products, pills that don't really have what's promised in them. They're often duped into paying more than they should. If my picture is next to a product, endorsing it and supporting your purchase of it, I did not give them permission."

Consumer Fraud

Consumers are sold the products through web sites that look like personal diet blogs, but on 80 different sights the picture of the same woman. a German model, appears, chopped to look smaller. Consumers who place an order over the phone for a free sample say they were unaware they automatically enrolled in automatic charges, which were difficult to stop.

Oprah’s Community Web site outlines some of the complaints.

Ever since Dr. Oz discussed acai on the Oprah Winfrey show in early 2008, a host of Web sites have emerged promoting the berry with names like Oprah-best-acai.com, OprahsAmazingDiet.com, DrOzMiracle.com, rachaelray.drozdiet-acaiberry.com.

Oprah’s Web site has reportedly fielded more than 2,000 complaints from customers related to the products.

Harpo Inc., her company has forwarded many of those complaints to the Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan who has filed suit against Advanced Wellness Research, its successor Netalab, based in Florida.

She also sued Crush LLC, and its owner, TMP Nevada, both based in Utah. Her third lawsuits was filed against Amirouche & Norton and Larby Amirouche, internet marketing companies who are alleged to have misled consumers with false advertising and false endorsements about dietary supplements, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Center for Science in the Public Interest ran an expose on the acai berry in the April Nutrition Action Health Letter.

Acai Berry

Acai berries are dark purple and harvested from a 60-foot palm trees in Brazil and sold as a thick pulp in capsule, powder, or juice form. Sold in health food stores they are increasingly being picked up by mainstream food producers. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch have added them to products as have Stonyfield Farm, Procter & Gamble, and Haagen-Dazs reports ABC News.

They are thought to have antioxidant properties, similar to other dark red berries and grapes.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says there is no indication that acai berries can help you lose weight.

53 products promoting the acai berry have been released in 2009 alone, reports ABC. #

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