Kids’ Vitamins Make False Health Claims, Refunds Available

Disney VitaminsIf you are one of many parents who bought Disney or Marvel Heroes vitamins or mineral gummy products for your kids, you may be owed a refund.

Charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for making false and unsupported claims about the amount of DHA in their products, the manufacturers have agreed to dole out over two million dollars in refunds. Announced Tuesday, the refund stems from a settlement made in December 2010.

The FTC charged NBTY, Inc. and subsidiary companies NatureSmart LLC and Rexall Sundown, Inc. with making “false and unsupported claims that the Disney and Marvel Heroes line of multivitamins contained a significant amount of DHA” and “promoted healthy brain and eye development in children.”

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What Is DHA?

DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna, herring and mackerel.  Although your kid may not like eating it, the American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish--preferably fatty fish--each week.

While omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have a myriad of health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic, “well designed research is necessary before a clear conclusion can be reached” about its effects on infant eye and brain development.

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What false claims were made?

The packaging implied that the vitamins had a significant amount of DHA and would promote healthy brain and eye development in kids, but the health benefits described were for 100 milligrams of DHA, and the vitamins for children 4 years and older only had about 100 micrograms, only one-thousandth of the amount which would produce the described benefits.

The vitamins designed for 2 to 4 year olds only had 50 micrograms, or five ten-thousands of the amount referred to on the packaging and product advertising. The FTC further stated that the brain and eye health benefits promoted on the prodcuts' packaging were not supported by scientific evidence.

The vitamins and mineral gummy products, which featured characters such as Spiderman, Nemo, Wall-e, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and the Disney Princesses, were sold for $4 to $8 at drugstore.com and other online vendors and in stores including CVS Pharmacy, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger, Kmart, Meijer, and Rite Aid.

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How do I get a refund?

If you bought these vitamins between May 1, 2008 and September 30, 2010, you can file a claim online, or call 866-224-4336 to request a paper claim form, which will be mailed to you. The claim must be filed by October 12, 2012.

What can parents do to help brain and eye development?

Simply being outside has a significant effect on vision. Kids who play outdoors have better vision than those who spend most of their time indoors staring at a screen. As I’ve reported previously, a study published in Optometry and Vision Science found that nearsighted American kids averaged 4.3 fewer hours outside each week than children with normal eyesight and watched much more TV.

As for brain development, a 2009 study shows that kids with the highest level of cardiovascular fitness have a tendency to have higher IQs, so make sure they’re running, swimming, or playing sports such as basketball or soccer.

And, as always, a balanced diet with adequate levels of vitamin Cs and E, beta-carotene and zinc is important—so make sure to include fruits and vegetables in your kids’ meals.

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