Called a “landmark case” by some, the federal court found FTC’s criticism of the company’s claims was simply a “difference of opinion” with the company providing evidence substantiating its key advertising points. The judge did not accept the FTC’s expert argument that AdvaCAL clinical studies were too flawed to serve as substantiation. In fact, he found those studies and other evidence sufficient to support the company’s position in this dispute.
Judge Dennis Cavanaugh of the US District Court of New Jersey denied the FTC motion, on the grounds that LaneLabs had “clearly offered support and substantiation for the claims regarding [AdvaCAL]…This is not a case of a company making claims out of thin air,” he stated in the opinion.The court noted that LaneLabs had hired a compliance officer and had also sought expert advice to interpret the scientific evidence it used to back its claims for AdvaCAL:
“LaneLabs found a product and obtained scientific evidence that the product is efficacious. LaneLabs then consulted experts who opined that the research supporting the product and the product itself were good,”
AdvaCAL calcium supplements have been marketed in health food retailers and through holistic doctors since 1999. The calcium is made through a patented process in Japan, in which oyster shells are super-heated, changing its chemical structure from calcium carbonate to a highly soluble calcium oxide and calcium hydroxide. The calcium then is combined with an amino acid extract of seaweed, called HAI, for advanced absorption.
Dueling Experts: A Difference of Opinion
During the April, 2009 hearing for the case, the FTC and LaneLabs each presented expert witnesses, who were physicians and calcium researchers. They were found by the court to be credible and knowledgeable in their respective fields of expertise. Judge Cavanaugh noted:
“In considering the testimony offered by all of the experts the difference between FTC’s experts and the Defendants’ experts came down to a difference of opinion – not necessarily matters of right and wrong,”
Importantly, the FTC’s expert never claimed that AdvaCAL was ineffective or represented a health risk to anyone. In addition, the court said FTC had provided no evidence that consumers had complained or were harmed by the use of the AdvaCAL calcium supplement.
FTC Oversteps Its Bounds?
According to Jonathan W Emord of Virginia-based law firm, Emord & Associates, the case is a signal victory. “This case recognizes largely for the first time that FTC’s discretion has limits and may not overcome good faith, science-backed efforts at compliance simply based on the whim or caprice of the agency’s enforcers,” he said. FTC vs Lane Labs was clearly a step backwards for FTC, and an advance for effective natural technologies such as AdvaCAL.