U.S. agencies have sued a Brooklyn-based shop that has been advertising its herbal tea as an effective COVID-19 treatment.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration, claims the marketer of Earth Tea has used deceptive and dangerous marketing tactics to push its products online. The complaint lists B4B Earth Tea LLC, B4B Corp. and its owner, Andrew Martin “Busta” Sinclair, as defendants.
“Without any scientific evidence, the defendants claimed that drinking their herbal tea is more effective in preventing COVID-19 than approved vaccines, and cures anyone who has gotten ill within 24 hours,” Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “In bringing this matter with our partners at the Department of Justice and the Food and Drug Administration, the Commission continues its commitment to using every tool available to stop and deter those who would treat the pandemic as opportunity to peddle bogus treatments.”
According the civil suit, Sinclair and his companies sell 16-ounce bottles of Earth Tea for $60 a pop. The defendant is accused of using his website and social media to promote unproven claims about the tea’s efficacy against the disease. Some of the ads included the following statements.
“B4B Corp is sharing a COVID-19 Update…Earth Tea works!! The all natural instant immune booster clinical trials proves its [sic] effective against Covid19”
Though the defendants say they have anecdotal evidence to support their claims, the plaintiffs point out that the marketers of Earth Tea have not conducted a well-controlled clinical study. The company has continued to cite a 15-person study that was conducted in India; however, the FTC dismissed the findings because of the small sample size, the lack of a control group, and the fact that the results were never published in a recognized scientific journal.
“Products like this may delay patients from seeking proven treatments from their health care provider,” said Judy McMeekin, Pharm.D., FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs. “Preying on patients’ vulnerabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic is unacceptable. The FDA will continue to actively monitor the U.S. market for any companies or individuals falsely marketing products with claims it prevents or treats COVID-19, and will take actions against those who violate the law and endanger patients.”
The agencies are seeking civil penalties and a permanent injunction to stop the defendants from continuing their deceptive marketing.