Consumer Protection
8:30 am
Wed June 18, 2014

McCaskill Scolds Dr. Oz At Hearing On Weight-Loss Scams

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Tuesday chaired a hearing on Capitol Hill to discuss what she called a “crisis in consumer protection”: weight-loss diet scams.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of television’s “Dr. Oz Show”, was the hearing’s star witness. Other witnesses included Mary Koelbel Engle, associate director of the Division of Advertising Practices for the Federal Trade Commission, and Steven Mister, president and CEP of the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

During the hearing McCaskill scolded Oz for claims that he’s made about weight-loss aids on his show.

"I don’t get why you have to say this stuff because you know it’s not true. So why, when you have this amazing megaphone and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?" McCaskill asked.

Dr. Mehmet Oz testifies Tuesday before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Dr. Mehmet Oz testifies Tuesday before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Credit (Courtesy of Sen. Claire McCaskill)

"I know you know how much power you have. I know you know that. You are very powerful. And with power comes a great deal of responsibility. And I know you take it seriously and I know you care about your listening audience and your viewing audience. I know you care about America's health," McCaskill said. "You can either be part of the police here or you can be part of the problem and we're just hopeful that you'll do a better job of being part of the police."  

Oz acknowledged that his language has been “flowery” and he promised to publish a list of specific products he thinks can help Americans shed pounds and get healthy.

Our earlier report:

Months after she began focusing on bogus weight-loss products, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill plans to hold a hearing Tuesday on the issue. And she is slated to be joined by Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of the “Dr. Oz Show,” which has promoted such items.

McCaskill, D-Mo., has been public for years about her own battles with weight, and the best ways to go about it. (She has focused on proper diet and exercise and has at times Tweeted about it.)

Claire McCaskill
Claire McCaskill
Credit Claire McCaskill's Flickr Page

As chairman of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, McCaskill says she also has become increasingly aware that millions of Americans annually fall victim to “weight-loss diet scams.”

Next Tuesday, her staff says, she will lead a hearing to “examine deceptive advertising of weight-loss products and… determine what more can be done to protect consumers.”

Oz is appearing, in part, as a result of a suit that the Federal Trade Commission has filed against the Florida-based company, Pure Green Coffee.  According to McCaskill’s staff, the suit asserts that the company “capitalized on the green coffee bean diet fad by using bogus weight-loss claims and fake news websites to market its dietary supplement.”

“After green coffee was promoted on the Dr. Oz show, Pure Green Coffee began selling their Pure Green Coffee extract, charging $50 for a one-month supply,” her release said.

McCaskill also notes that the “FTC in January announced $34 million in settlements against marketers of fraudulent weight-loss products who deceived consumers with baseless claims. And the FTC issued updated guidance for publishers and broadcasters on how to spot phony weight-loss claims when screening ads for publication.”

McCaskill has been soliciting consumers for months to provide information and testimony about scams they’ve encountered. Her congressional website features a “submit your scam” button.

The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. St. Louis time Tuesday and can be viewed online.