Detox Tea Peddlers to Return $1 Million to Consumers Over Dangerous Health Claims

By: Wendy Wesley, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Want to detox your body? Here’s how: have a liver and two kidneys and do not rely on Instagram influencers for health advice.

To support this the Federal Trade Commission ordered a Pinellas skincare company, Teami, to return $1 million to consumers for making false and unsubstantiated claims that its detox teas and other products promote weight loss, fight cancer, treat colds and provide other health benefits.

In addition, ten social media influencers including Cardi B, Brittany Renner, Adrienne Bailon and Jordan Sparks, were sent warnings by the FTC which demanded the celebrities explain to their followers how they would distinguish their paid endorsements from other posts in the future.

Teami’s owners, Adi Halevy and Yogev Malul, who made claims without scientific backing, were handed formal complaints March 5 because of their failure to disclose they the paid influencers. The FTC alleged the paid posts were “deceptive.”

The proposed settlement with Teami prevents them from making unsupported weight loss and other health claims in the future. The fines could go as high at $15.2 million but would likely be less due to the owners’ inability to pay the fine.

This is excellent news for consumers who have been inundated for years by claims of rapid weight loss from herbal teas and other supplements. Companies need to back up such claims with credible science and warnings as these teas can be dangerous and harmful.

Your natural “detox system” which consists of a liver and two kidneys, is all you will ever need to detox.

In fact, this system has a proven track record and well over 10,000 5-star Google reviews.

I joke around with this because it’s preposterous and arrogant to think that companies like Teami have a better system than what has been granted to us by birth and scientifically proven to work. Food goes in, waste comes out and in between is the most fascinating and elegant system known in the world of natural sciences.

But, please, let Kim and Kylie Kardashian and former Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin, sell you detox tea.

A few years back I purchased a tea in the Spanish/Latin American section of my grocery story thinking, “I need a decaffeinated herbal tea in the morning to drink between breakfast and lunch.” What happened was intense GI pain and distress.

Embarrassingly, it took me a few days to connect the dots.

Now the tea is wrapped up and sequestered in my tea tin with a note to future Wendy that reads “Use in cases of extreme constipation ONLY!” This tea contains Cassia Acutifolia which is a powerful laxative. It’s the close chemical cousin to Senna which we use in the hospital for patients with severe constipation.

Regular use of these herbal teas, which are marketed to us a “detoxifying” and “cleansing,” can be harmful over the long haul as they may make your gastrointestinal (GI) system dependent on them.

Featured recently on the Today Show was a young woman with gastroparesis because of the teas. The emptying of her stomach has been chronically delayed because the tea did the GI’s work and rendered it “lazy.”

Kudos to the FTC for cracking down on these “detox teas” and paid celebrity endorsements on social media. More of this muscle is required to protect the consumer against health claims not only do not deliver stated results but can also be harmful.

We humans want a quick fix. But instead of trying to control what already works (GI, liver and kidney systems) let’s put maximum effort into what we can control which is what goes in the mouth.

My message is not sexy or revolutionary and it won’t earn me one dime: Eat minimally processed foods that include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans legumes, lean meats, seafood and some dairy if it agrees with you.

Get rid of the junk and let your elegant detox system take care of the rest.