The company in question was Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, which had a string of fines, warning letters and product recalls under its belt.
However, on August 27 the company received the final deathly blow after a federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio, convicted Berkley’s founder Steve Warshak of 93 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering for participating in a “scheme” that deceived thousands of consumers who had bought the firm’s male sexual enhancement products under false pretenses.
The product in question, Enzyte, promised sexual enhancement, and was marketed with a TV advertisement featuring ‘Smiling Bob’, a happy man with an exaggerated smile because his problems ‘down below’ had supposedly been remedied.
As well as 25 years in jail, Warshak was ordered to pay $93,000 from his personal savings, and the company was ordered to forfeit $500m.
Giving industry a bad name
Berkeley Nutraceuticals embodies the very company that has sullied the name of the supplements industry, particularly in the US where the whole market suffers from the irresponsible and misleading behavior of a number of rogue players.
The industry, as a whole, has been accused of being unregulated.
This situation makes it incredibly difficult for responsible firms to conduct their business, despite repeated and continuing calls from trade groups for the industry to clean itself up through tighter self-regulation.
The severity of Berkeley’s punishment is a clear message that if all else fails, the courts will step in.
According to veteran Colorado-based food-industry lawyer, James R Prochnow, of the firm Greenberg Traurig, this was “the most significant decision in the history of the dietary supplements industry”.
“It is a substantial departure from previous sentencing and sends a clear message to industry that transgressions of this nature will be harshly dealt with,” he told us on the day of the verdict.
NutraIngredients would like to hear from members of the industry from the United States, but also from other countries around the world.
Will this “historic” verdict help clean up the dietary supplements scene?
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