The Department of Justice said this week that Defyned Brands, an Austin-based company that does business as 5 Star Nutrition LLC, pleaded guilty to a three-count criminal information that accused it of selling dietary products with false labels.
According to the plea deal, the company sent supplements with ingredients that were either wrongly listed as food additives or weren’t mentioned at all on the product labels between September 2018 and July 2020.
The company Defyned Brands stated that shipments of three workout supplements, Epivar, Alpha Shredded, and Laxobolic, were mislabeled, which is against the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), which says that supplements are food.
“People should be able to tell what’s in the supplements they buy,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton. “Further investigations will be conducted into dietary supplement makers and sellers who sell products that do not follow the law, including possible criminal investigations.”
Forfeiting $4.5 Million in Profits from Misbranded Supplement Sales
Because of the plea deal, Defyned Brands has to give up $4.5 million in gains it made from selling the fake products at its 5 Star Nutrition stores.
The company also agreed to set up a compliance program and give required compliance reports on its labeling and manufacturing methods from now on.
“The defendant in this case lied to consumers for almost two years by putting false information on the labels of dietary supplements,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza.
“By making this company give up the money it made from this practice, we hope to restore the public’s faith in the safety of the goods they buy,” he said.
It was made in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Hightower in the Western District of Texas.
Ongoing Efforts to Ensure Supplement Safety
Federal officials stressed that people should be able to believe that the ingredients listed on food and supplement labels are correct, as the law requires.
People in the U.S. depend on the FDA to keep an eye on foods and make sure they are safe and healthy. “The public’s health is at risk when companies make, sell, or distribute dietary supplements with false labels,” said Special Agent Charles Grinstead.
Along with the Justice Department, Grinstead is in charge of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) field office in Kansas City. This office led the investigation into Defyned Brands.
“We will continue to look into people who break our laws and work to bring them to justice,” Grinstead said.
Senior Litigation Counsel David Sullivan and Trial Attorney Manu J. Sebastian from the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch were also part of the investigation and trial team. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Harding from the Western District of Texas was also on the team.
Their work is the latest attempt to get rid of supplement companies that don’t follow labeling rules or make people sick with their goods in other ways.
Buyer Beware When Selecting Supplements
Many legitimate supplement companies follow federal rules very closely when it comes to quality and honesty. However, experts tell people who are looking at new workout recipes or fat-burning products to carefully read labels and claims.
Signs a supplement may be misbranded or otherwise problematic include:
- Undisclosed or confusing ingredients
- Vague or overblown health assertions
- Little or unknown brand reputation
- Pricing that seems too good to be true
You can also find out if a vitamin is reliable by reading reviews written by other customers. Buyers should remember the old saying that you should stay away from solutions that sound too good to be true.
If people start to have doubts, they can call the FDA directly to ask questions or file complaints about possible mislabeled or dangerous supplements aimed at the exercise market and other groups.