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The FTC Issued Warnings To Two Trade Unions & Twelve Influencers About Aspartame or Sugar

Updated: Dec 3, 2023


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued warnings to two trade associations and twelve influencers regarding their social media posts endorsing the consumption of aspartame or sugar. Influencers have been accused of not properly disclosing their financial ties to the industry, as stated in the letters.





The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff has issued warning letters to two trade associations and 12 registered dieticians and health influencers due to inadequate disclosures in their posts on Instagram and TikTok. These posts were promoting the safety of the artificial sweetener aspartame or the consumption of sugar-containing products.


The FTC's concern is that the American Beverage Association (AmeriBev) and The Canadian Sugar Institute may have violated the FTC Act by not properly disclosing that the influencers were hired to endorse the safety of aspartame or the consumption of sugar-containing products. This action aligns with the FTC's recent revision of their Guides for Endorsements and Testimonials, and reflects their ongoing monitoring of influencer marketing.


Samuel Levine, the Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, criticized trade groups for not ensuring that influencers disclose their relationship when promoting their members' products. This is especially important when health and safety claims are being made about sugar and aspartame, as people rely on registered dieticians and others for advice on what to consume.

“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,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “That’s certainly true for health and safety claims about sugar and aspartame, especially when made by registered dieticians and others upon whom people rely for advice about what to eat and drink.”


The warning letter to AmeriBev addresses specific concerns about Instagram and TikTok posts by Valerie Agyeman, Nichole Andrews, Leslie Bonci, Keri Gans, Stephanie Grasso, Cara Harbstreet, Andrea Miller, Idrees Mughal, Adam Pecoraro, and Mary Ellen Phipps. Each of them also received an individual warning letter.


The Canadian Sugar Institute received a letter expressing concerns about posts made by Jenn Messina and Lindsay Pleskot on Instagram. Both individuals were also sent individual warning letters. The letter referred to the Commission’s Guides for Endorsements and Testimonials, which state that paid endorsements should clearly disclose any material connections to ensure consumers have the necessary information for informed purchasing decisions.


Each warning letter highlighted posts that either did not disclose a material connection or had inadequate disclosures. Staff raised concerns about various aspects of the disclosures, such as their placement, vague language, or the failure to clearly identify the sponsor of the posts.


The warning letters also mentioned the FTC’s penalties for misleading endorsements and informed the recipients that they could face civil penalties of up to $50,120 per violation if they fail to disclose unexpected material connections in the future. Additionally, the recipients were asked to contact agency staff and provide details of the actions taken or planned to address the concerns.


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