LEHI — Two companies headquartered in Utah received letters this week from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning them that marketing materials for some of their products were venturing into dangerous territory.
The FDA warned dōTERRA, headquartered in Pleasant Grove, and Young Living Essential Oils, based in Lehi, that their products are improperly labeled and is seeking corrective action immediately.
Approximately 100,000 independent consultants work for dōTERRA and Young Living Essential Oils. The companies produce essential oils, but the FDA claims the products are misleading to consumers.
In letters addressed to the companies on Monday, the FDA said: "The labeling of these products fails to bear adequate directions for their intended use and, therefore the products are misbranded."
The FDA said both dōTERRA and Young Living advertised some of their oils as "cures" for viral infections, including Ebola. Social media posts with false claims are what put these companies on the FDA radar.
The letter to dōTERRA claims that on Aug. 3, a post by a company consultant claimed, “Many Essential Oils are highly Anti-viral. I list here a few of them those (sic) oils that could help prevent your contracting the Ebola virus.”
A Young Living consultant had an ad that said, "Viruses (including Ebola) are no match for Young Living Essential Oils," the FDA said in its warning letter.
The letters also state that the companies advertise oils as treatments for cancer, autism, and Alzheimer’s, among a lengthy list of other diseases. Under those claims, the FDA said the oils would need to be tested and administered as prescription drugs to be legal.
Officials gave the companies 15 days to notify the FDA of corrective actions.
With more than 600,000 distributors across the globe working for Young Living, chief operating officer Travis Ogden said it is hard to police these ads.
"Our legal team has already reached out to them and are talking to them to make sure that they know how to properly share the products," Ogden said. "We are going to make sure that all of their actions are in compliance."
Consultants who refuse to abide by the policies will be dropped as independent distributors, Ogden added.
"We're already coordinating with them to make sure that within those 15 days we're going to meet every request that they have in their letter," he said.
McKay Brown with dōTERRA released a statement that, in part, says:
"Yesterday we received a letter of warning from the FDA. It addressed the way a select few of our distributors have been marketing essential oils online. Because dōTERRA's products are natural products and are not registered with the FDA as drugs, we are restricted on the health claims that can be made for marketing purposes. We recognize essential oils have profound health benefits, but do not claim that our products cure or treat diseases including the Ebola virus."
Both companies have 15 days to show the FDA how they are correcting the problem. If it can’t be corrected within that time period, the companies must explain why and say how long it will take for them to be compliant.
Contributing: Mary Richards