Episode
July 15, 2019

Are influencers who promote flat-belly teas endangering their fans?

The Stream takes a look at the controversial world of celebrity endorsements, and whether regulation of such online marketing is needed.
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People have been drinking tea to promote good health for centuries. But a new category of tea that has become ubiquitous on Instagram is raising concerns for its potential adverse side effects.


The Kardashian sisters, Cardi B, Britney Spears and Hilary Duff have all been paid up to six-figure sums to peddle "teatoxes" that claim to effortlessly flatten bellies and kickstart fitness. However, pushback against the promotion of detox teas is growing as the products' claims get more outrageous - including a recent advertisement of a flat belly tea for pregnant women.

Such claims are not verifed by regulators in the United States, where much of the advertising is centred, and citics say the drinks are potentially dangerous to young women who are trying to look as thin and beautiful as the famous people advertising them. This is because the teas contain herbs that induce weight loss through diarrhea and vomiting, which is ineffective and could cause liver failure, health officials say.

Actor Jameela Jamil has been among the most visible opponents of teatox endorsements, issuing scathing critiques of Instagram influencers advertising the products. US Congress members are also starting to take note. In June, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal requested the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate the sale and marketing of detox teas on social media to "protect consumers from harm".

The FTC has previously warned more than 90 social media celebrities, athletes and other influencers to "clearly and conspicuously" disclose their relationship to advertisers in promotional posts. But non-profit ad watchdog Truth in Advertising has documented thousands of examples of influencers flouting the disclosure policy, and called for stricter enforcement.

In this episode, The Stream takes a look at claims versus reality and asks whether these products (and others) need regulation. Join the conversation.

 

On this episode of The Stream we speak with:
Bonnie Patten, @TruthinAD
Executive Director, Truth in Advertising
truthinadvertising.org
 

Niza Nusrally, @nizaswondertea
Founder, Niza's Wonder Tea
nizaswondertea.com
 

Stephanie Mandel
Nutrition Consultant
instagram.com/kurzlandia

Read more:
Teatox Party How laxative teas took over Instagram, one $250,000 celebrity endorsement at a time –Vox
Influencers, are your #materialconnection #disclosures #clearandconspicuous? – Federal Trade Commission
How does detox tea make you skinnier? It doesn't. – AJ+

What do you think? Record a 30-second video comment or leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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