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If you sell food, then you know that Food and Drug Agency (FDA) regulations strictly prohibit you from asserting or even implying on your product’s label that your product can treat, prevent or cure a disease unless that claim has been specifically approved by the FDA. Unapproved claims on labels amount to an unauthorized drug claim in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. What you might not know, however, is that retweeting, reposting, or “liking” such claims that other people post about your product could also land you in legal trouble.
These days, connecting with consumers on social media is a must if you want to grow your business, including your farming business. We see more and more farms offering value-added products to expand their businesses and listing their website, Facebook page or other social media sites on their product label because that’s a great way to market their product and their farm. If, however, you do list your website, Facebook page or other social media platforms on your product label, you should be aware that those could be deemed to be an extension of the product’s label. Your actions on those platforms could be used by the FDA to demonstrate that you intended to misbrand your product by promoting your product for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of a disease.
We have all seen posts from people who claim that this “super food” prevents cancer or cures diabetes, etc. Although you are not responsible for statements that others post about your products, if you share those posts or even “like” those posts, that could be considered as you making the claim directly to consumers, particularly if it is shown to be part of a pattern of behavior of making implied drug claims.
Other actions that might be construed as endorsing claims about a product’s ability to prevent or treat a disease could include posting links to blog articles where third parties make statements about the curative effects of your product. Basically, if you aren’t allowed to make the claim directly as a company on your label, you can’t make the claim indirectly by “liking” or sharing or retweeting testimonials or reviews that claim that your product prevents, cures, mitigates or treats disease.
Just like you have a plan for labeling and marketing your products, you should also have a policy for how you will use social media to promote your product. When reviewing your social media policy, be sure to do the following to make sure your label isn’t mistakenly misleading:
1. Refrain from “liking” comments or testimonials made by third parties that are posted on your Facebook page or other social media platforms claiming that your product diagnosed, treated, mitigated, prevented or cured a disease.
2. Review and critique whom you “follow” on social media. If someone you’re following is making miracle claims about your food, consider “unfollowing” them or at least don’t “like” those posts.
3. Check any links on your website that take people to third-party sites to be sure you know what’s being said about your product on those sites and whether you might be seen as endorsing any unauthorized drug claims made on those sites, in which case you should consider removing the link from your website.
4. Consider deleting from your website any testimonials from consumers claiming that your product diagnosed, treated, mitigated, prevented or cured a disease.