Last week, the EDNY and the DOJ Consumer Protection Branch brought a civil enforcement action against defendants who manufacture and sell an herbal tea product called B4B Earth Tea Extra Strength (“Earth Tea”). Earth Tea costs $60 for each 16-ounce bottle.
The Government alleges that since April 2020, defendants have falsely advertised Earth Tea on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube as being able to prevent and treat COVID-19, even claiming that it is more effective than the available COVID-19 vaccines. The postings include:
- EARTH TEA PROVEN TREATMENT FOR COVID-19 WORKS WITHIN MINUTES GET OUT OF QUARANTINE WITHIN 24HRS GUARANTEED.
- To this day, Earth Tea is the most effective Treatment against #COVID19 as Treatment and Prevention … Get well in 28-48 Hours. 72 Hours MAX.
- One Bottle is all it Takes! Earth Tea Covid-19 Stopper.
Defendant Andrew Martin Sinclair allegedly stated on YouTube and TikTok videos:
- “I understand the skepticism … But I’ll say you don’t have to die, you don’t have to suffer … You get this tea, you drink it, you go to sleep and wake up tomorrow … you’re good to go.”
- “Pour half the bottle in a cup cold and then you drink the other half hot before you go to sleep, all right? Simple…. And then guess what? COVID-19, gone.”
The complaint alleges that the defendants compound their misrepresentations with unsubstantiated claims that there is supporting competent and reliable scientific research, as well as claims that Earth Tea is more effective than vaccination at preventing or treating COVID-19: “Vaccines trial shows preventing hospitalization is 85%-96% while so far Earth Tea Extra Strength is 100%.”
The Government alleges that defendants’ “use of deceptive advertising and misinformation, exploiting fears in the midst of a pandemic to sell their product to concerned consumers, poses a significant risk to public health and safety.” The complaint alleges violations of the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and seeks a permanent injunction, civil penalties and other relief.
As we approach the two-year anniversary of the COVID pandemic shutdowns, we can expect the Government to continue to aggressively prosecute alleged fraud seeking to exploit the pandemic, including alleged attempts to profit from consumer fears.