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Business Bites: FTC alerts trade associations, others that their online posts could potentially violate federal law

On this week’s plate: FTC issues 14 warning letters to trade organizations, registered dietitians and social media influencers for not disclosing pertinent information; alt-seafood organization Future Ocean Foods aims to help advance industry; Dr. Bronner’s launches plant-based chocolate bars; and more.

Heather Carter

November 27, 2023

5 Min Read
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Viktollio/Shutterstock.com

At a Glance

  • FTC issued more than a dozen warning letters to trade orgs, dietitians, online influencers for misleading sweetener posts.
  • Entrepreneur created global alt-seafood association to help advance industry.
  • Dr. Bronner’s expanded its footprint in food industry with sustainably sourced, plant-based chocolates featuring oat milk.

The internet is notoriously known for conveying misinformation. This is even more concerning now that research shows reputable news organizations are increasingly having to compete with social media platforms such as TikTok and Facebook. A recent study from Pew Research Center found almost half (43%) of TikTok users regularly access news via the app—almost double the users (22%) from 2022—and half of U.S. adults get at least some news from social media. FTC is diligently working to interrupt the misinformation conveyed on such platforms when it comes to health and safety claims with its recent warning letters to two trade associations, a dozen dietitians and other social media influencers. Learn more in this week’s column.

Two trade associations, a dozen registered dietitians and other social media influencers are under fire from FTC. The government agency recently sent warning letters to the aforementioned about the lack of adequate disclosures in their Instagram and TikTok posts promoting the safety of artificial sweetener aspartame and consumption of other sugar-containing products. American Beverage Association (ABA) and The Canadian Sugar Institute, as well as the associated dietitians and influencers, were each notified by FTC for concerns that they potentially violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, a federal law established by FTC in 1914 outlawing unfair methods of competition or unfair acts or practices that affect commerce. Per FTC, ABA and The Canadian Sugar Institute failed to adequately disclose that the influencers were hired to promote the safety of aspartame or the consumption of sugar-infused products, respectively. The letters come on the heels of FTC’s recent revision of its Endorsement Guides, which provide guidance to businesses and other entities to ensure advertising using reviews or endorsements is indeed truthful and not misleading. As mentioned in the Endorsement Guides, paid endorsements must “clearly and conspicuously disclose any unexpected material connections” to ensure consumers are properly informed about certain products and can make informed purchasing decisions. The warning letters sent on Nov. 13 give all recipients 15 business days to contact FTC staff with how they intend to address the stated concerns. FTC noted if undisclosed posts or claims are made in the future, the offenders could be subject to civil penalties of up to $50,120 per violation, per FTC’s 2021 Notice of Penalty Offenses Concerning Deceptive or Unfair Conduct around Endorsements and Testimonials.

Global alt-seafood association aims to revolutionize industry

The alt-seafood industry is booming. So much so that a dedicated global organization, known as Future Ocean Foods (FOF), was created to serve the segment. The new association is dedicated to supporting and accelerating the alt-seafood industry worldwide. Comprised of 36 inaugural members spanning 14 countries—the United States, Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Austria, India, Iceland and Australia—the overarching mission of FOF is to promote knowledge-sharing, collaboration, education and awareness in support of food security, human health, environmental sustainability and ocean conservation. The association, founded by advisor to food tech founders and impact investors Marissa Bronfman, is currently partnered with The Good Food Institute (GFI) and ProVeg International. It’s also dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion, with 40% of its members featuring women founders.

Dr. Bronner’s launches plant-based chocolate products

California-based producer of organic soap and personal care products Dr. Bronner’s is continuing to make socially and environmentally responsible products—now in the food industry. After a successful launch of Magic All-One dark chocolate bars in 2021, the company recently unveiled its newest offerings featuring oat milk. The plant-based chocolate bars are produced in three flavors: Crunchy Hazelnut Butter, Creamy Mocha Latte, and Golden Milk Chai. They’re made using a blend of Regenerative Organic Certified ingredients, including cocoa from Ghana and Ivory Coast, coconut sugar from Indonesia and cocoa butter from Congo. The cacao crops used for the chocolate bars are sourced from 800 farmers in eastern Ghana who also supply fair trade and organic palm oil used in the company’s Pure-Castile Bar Soaps. Dr. Bronner’s also works with KANY, a cooperative of women farmers in Ivory Coast, to source additional cocoa used in the bars.

Consumers’ understanding of packaging technology may help combat food waste

Americans are large contributors to global food waste. In the U.S., between 30%-40% of the food supply is wasted, according to USDA. New research from the Michigan State University (MSU) School of Packaging sheds light on how consumers’ understanding of packaging technology may help combat this growing problem. “Minding the Gap: Consumer Awareness of Packaging & Food Waste Reduction,” a new report by MSU School of Packaging, found many U.S. consumers don’t understand the correlation between different types of packaging and food preservation/cost savings. The study, sponsored by American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN) and Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF), analyzed data from a questionnaire distributed nationwide to more than 1,000 people of varying demographics. It found fruits, vegetables, prepared foods and dairy are the most frequently wasted food categories—with fruits and vegetables accounting for more than three-quarters (77%) of total waste—simply because they weren’t properly packaged and frequently spoiled before consumption. Researchers also found consumers prefer packaging that more clearly states the shelf life of food products, with innovative packaging technologies, which could potentially further reduce household food waste. The most important takeaway: Better educating consumers about packaging’s role in food waste can aid them in making smarter purchasing decisions and potentially reduce food waste.

ofi opens new dairy facility in New Zealand

Food and beverage ingredient company ofi is strengthening its footprint in Oceania. After two years of construction, the company recently opened a new dairy processing plant in Tokoroa, South Waikato, New Zealand. The state-of-the-art facility will produce dairy ingredients, such as milk powder, and contribute to the company’s natural ingredients portfolio that includes cocoa, coffee, nuts and spices. A biomass boiler fueled by sustainably sourced wood residue is expected to be commissioned in early 2024, which will power the plant, enabling milk processing to be more energy efficient with a lower impact. The plant will also help address customer innovation, traceability and sustainable sourcing requirements, building on the company’s commitment to sustainability, according to company reps. In October 2023, ofi published its first sustainability strategy for its dairy business. “Dairy Tracks” outlines the detailed approach the company is taking with sustainability efforts across its value chain.

About the Author(s)

Heather Carter

Associate editor, Food & Beverage Insider

With over a decade of diverse professional experience under her belt, Heather has journeyed from the bustling world of local news reporting to the intricate realms of trade publishing. She has covered a wide array of topics, ranging from architecture and design to the food and beverage industry.

During her illustrious career, Heather also ventured into the realm of public relations, where she gleaned invaluable insights into the art of strategic communication and brand storytelling. Yet, her heart has always been anchored in the vibrant world of F&B, a passion deeply ingrained in her roots as the daughter of a seasoned chef. She has always held a profound appreciation for the role food plays in shaping cultures and connecting people.

With each story she tells, Heather seeks to illuminate the profound impact of food and beverage on people’s lives, celebrating its ability to evoke emotions, foster connections and weave the fabric of our shared human experience.

As Food & Beverage's associate editor, she co-publishes a weekly news column, Business Bites, which showcases the latest industry news, highlighting key business updates, food and beverage innovation, industry events and more. Some of her other articles touch on important topics, such as ultra-processed foods, plant-based foods primed to change the food landscape, international flavors and ingredients, as well as better-for-you CPGs. She also frequently covers top trends at various industry events and has moderated first-of-their-kind education sessions at Informa events.

She can be reached at [email protected].

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