The companies are NBTY Inc., a global manufacturer of vitamins and nutritional supplements, and two of its marketing arms, Rexall Sundown and NatureSmart. They were charged with making deceptive claims in the packaging and marketing of various children's vitamins branded with Disney and Marvel action heroes.
Rexall Sundown is a wholly owned subsidiary of NBTY and is not associated with the Rexall drugstore chain in Canada, which is owned by Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, which investigated the misleading claims, the drug manufacturer and marketers overstated the quantity and efficacy of docosahexaenoic acid — an omega-3 fatty acid — in the children's vitamins.
The vitamins’ packaging said they contained 100 milligrams of DHA, when in fact they contained about one-thousandth of that amount.
The vitamins also overstated the health benefits of DHA by claiming the supplements promoted healthy brain and eye development in children.
Among the lines of vitamins found to contain misleading claims were multivitamins and gummies branded Disney Princess, Winnie the Pooh, Finding Nemo and Spiderman.
The vitamins were sold at major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart and Walgreens in the U.S., and at Canadian drug stores such as Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as online through drugstore.com and other websites.
Under a settlement agreement with the FTC, the companies are barred from making unsubstantiated claims. Any claims made in the future will have to be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
The American consumer protection agency will also administer a refund program, available only to U.S. purchasers of the products, valued at about $2.1 million.