The desire to lose weight with minimal effort is hardly new, but federal authorities are now resorting to novel approaches of informing the public about the potentially disastrous consequences of using health and nutritional supplements.
Among those targeted by DOJ were bestsellers like Jack3d, OxyElite Pro, and OxyElite Pro "New Formula" and "Advanced Formula," brands which have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in sales but have also been linked to severe medical issues like liver failure and hepatitis.
This recent probe targeted not only the manufacturers but also the companies who market these pills as healthy and natural.
"As alleged in the indictment unsealed today, the defendants were on a perpetual search for the next miracle ingredient," Benjamin C. Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general said, in a speech on Tuesday. "Much of the alleged fraud focused on the defendants' claims that their products were made from natural plant extracts. In truth, as one defendant put it, 'lol stuff is completely 100 % synthethic [sic].'"
In the minds authorities, these companies prey on uninformed consumers who are duped by sleek branding and the promise of a quick fix for their health issues.
"Consumers turn to supplements when they want to lose weight, get an edge in athletic performance, or improve their overall well-being," said Mizer. "From California to Maine, consumers ingest pills, powders and liquids every day, not knowing whether they are wasting money or whether they may end up harming, rather than helping, themselves."
But rather than keep this battle limited to the courtroom, many of the of the federal agencies involved have made mobile apps to counter the widespread misinformation surrounding supplements.
The Human Performance Resource Center (HPRC) has created a catchy-sounding list called the Operation Supplement Safety High-Risk Supplement List, which is available via mobile applications and geared toward minimizing "the potential adverse effects of some dietary supplements.
The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), for its part, has launched the Supplement 411 app for athletes. Both are accessible to the general public via Google Play and Apple App stores. USADA will also be utilizing an online interactive educational tool called "Get the Scoop on Supplements: Realize, Recognize, and Reduce Your Risk" in order to get the word out about the potential health risks surrounding certain supplements.
So, while the last place people may want a meddling federal bureaucracy is inside your cell phone, it might be the most effective way of combatting some of the "snake oil salesman and medical quacks" who run the $40-billion supplements industry.