This past Monday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has released a consumer warning, urging consumers to not fall prey to the viral ads of countless acai berry based products for weight loss, sexual dysfunction, cancers, and other ailments.
In the warning, the following is stated:
“There’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that açai pills will help shed pounds, flatten tummies, cleanse colons, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions.”
In a more light-hearted tone, David Schardt, the CSPI senior nutritionist said:
“If Bernard Madoff were in the food business, he’d be offering ‘free’ trials of açai-based weight-loss products.”
Aside from the lack of evidence backing any of the acai berry product claims are sketchy business practices of most of the companies peddling the products.
In fact, almost 3 months ago, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) had released their own warning concerning online sales of such products.
In that warning, it was said that the “BBB has received thousands of complaints from consumers nationwide who thought they were signing up for a free-trial offer of acai berry weight loss products that were supposedly endorsed by Oprah, Rachel Ray and other celebrities; in the end, the free trial cost them, month after month.
Apparently, the “free-trials” all these companies are offering, just like the AcaiBurn that I recently blogged about, can end up costing you quite a bit. In a scheme called “negative option”, the consumer must log in a credit card number to receive the free trial – as soon as they do so, they unknowingly also purchase subsequent orders of the product for which they will be charged in the near future. And cancelling your subscription is apparently close to impossible (stories of being on hold for 75 minutes while attempting to cancel product purchase), such that the “14-day free-trial” can turn into a lifetime expense.
Additionally, various companies have also been setting up fake blogs, written by non-existent people touting the benefits of acai berry based products, particularly for weight loss. According to the CSPI report there are at least 80 different blogs written by different people, with all of them having the same personal before and after pics of their acai-berry body transformation. And who is the woman in the photo? It turns out she’s a German model whose photo has been photoshoped to give a nice before and after comparison. Thus, Tara, Olivia, Alicia, Becky and others of ” [Insert name] Weight Loss Blog” are all the same German model who was totally unaware her picture was being used to scam consumers into purchasing a bogus product.
Even more interesting, a recent study has shown that while acai juice is often touted to be the highest in antioxidants, it apparently pales in comparison to many other juices in its anti-oxidant properties such as grape, blueberry, and black cherry juice.
For future reference, if you come across a product that you are tempted to purchase, first check the BBB for a review of the company selling that product at http://www.bbb.org/ , where you will find a free online database with over 4 million reports on different businesses
Also you can check out this Fraud Alert written by the CSPI for how to ensure you don’t get scammed by online health products which has a bunch of helful tips.
Originally posted March 25, 2009