This web site was copied prior to January 20, 2005. It is now a Federal record managed by the National Archives and Records Administration. External links, forms, and search boxes may not function within this collection.
Biothreats - Are Claims To Treat
Really Just A Trick?
In the aftermath of the anthrax scare
last fall, some marketers are trying to cash in on consumers'
heightened fears and vulnerabilities, plying products
that claim to detect, prevent, protect against or treat
biological and chemical agents.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
and other law enforcement authorities have examined
hundreds of sites marketing gas masks, protective suits,
biohazard test kits, colloidal silver, oregano oil and
similar products that claim to be safe and effective
against biological or chemical contamination. But according
to the FTC, consumers should greet these claims with
a healthy dose of skepticism.
Officials at the nation's consumer
protection agency say many of these products simply
can't do what they claim. For example, kits marketed
to detect the presence of anthrax in your surroundings
have almost never been tested on actual anthrax spores.
At best, says the agency, that would make them ineffective.
But the products also can be inaccurate and unreliable.
False positive results could create unnecessary anxiety
for consumers, and even worse, a false negative result
could delay medical treatment in the unlikely event
a consumer was exposed to anthrax spores.
Fraudulent promoters also are offering
dietary supplements, like colloidal silver, zinc mineral
water and oregano oil, as treatments for contamination
from biological agents. The FTC is not aware of any
scientific basis for these self-treatment alternatives.
Indeed, the leading dietary supplement industry trade
associations have urged dietary supplement sellers not
to promote any dietary supplement for the prevention,
cure or treatment of anthrax.
For consumers who are worried about
preventing, detecting or treating biological or chemical
threats, the FTC suggests that you:
Consult your physician immediately if you believe
you have been exposed to anthrax or any other biological
or chemical agent.
Cut claims down to size. When you see claims that
a product can, say, "eliminate all pathogens
in the human body in six minutes or less," it's
time for a reality check. If any product really did
that, wouldn't you have heard it first on the news
- not in an ad?
Check out your source. Appearances can be deceiving.
Many fraudulent businesses either use names that sound
like established legitimate organizations or sell
products that imitate respected, well-known brands.
How can you know if a business is legitimate? It can
be tricky. Ask questions, do some research and check
with local consumer protection agencies.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive
and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information
to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free
information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov
or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil
and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.