It seems that some people respond to public concern about swine flu and its spread by trying to sell you stuff. This stuff is not limited to face masks and duct tape, but includes products advertised to prevent, diagnose, or treat swine flu, but whose claims of safety and efficacy do not have a basis in evidence.
In other words, snake oil.
Now, some will take the P.T. Barnum view that separating the gullible from their money is a good living (and perhaps a good incentive for people to be smarter). The FDA, however, regards at least some snake oil peddlers as criminals — and the agency is asking people who come upon what they suspect to be fraudulent products or criminal activity related to swine flu to report them to the agency’s Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI):
The FDA is alerting the public to be wary of Internet sites and other promotions for products that claim to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. The agency also is advising offending websites to take prompt action to correct and/or remove promotions of these fraudulent products or face enforcement action.
To report suspected fraudulent/illegal activity related to FDA-regulated products associated with H1N1 Flu Virus, please describe in detail the suspected fraudulent/illegal activity below.
You can contact the OCI by filling out a form on their website, or you can use snail mail:
Office of Criminal Investigations
Food and Drug Administration
7500 Standish Place
Rockville, MD 20855
They caution that knowingly reporting false information may make you subject to criminal or civil penalties, so don’t do that. (But, you should know not to do that anyway, even without the penalties. You’re reading an ethics blog, for goodness sake!)