For Immediate
February 10, 1999

For more information:

Voluntary Consumer Disclosure Guidelines for Weight Loss Clinics
Statement of Bruce Silverglade Director of Legal Affairs

CSPI petitioned the FTC in 1996 for mandatory rules requiring weight loss clinics to give prospective customers full information on costs, staff credentials, health risks and how much weight participants lose and keep off. CSPI’s petition was based on recommendations in the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine’s 1995 report Weighing the Options.

The voluntary guidelines developed by the FTC and the Partnership for Healthy Weight Management are a first step in providing consumers with such information but fail to provide for the disclosure of how much weight people who participate in a program lose and kept off. Without that key information, it is extremely difficult for consumers to intelligently compare the effectiveness of one program to another.

The disclosure of weight loss information is clearly possible. Some members of the industry, such as hospital-based programs, already collect and disclose information on the success of their programs. Until the rest of the industry does so, consumers should ask for such information and be suspicious of any program that refuses to provide it.

We hope that all members of the industry comply with these voluntary guidelines and continue to work with the FTC to devise a system for disclosing weight loss and maintenance data. If they don’t, Congress should provide the FTC with express authority to issue mandatory regulations. In the absence of progress on the federal level, the industry may be faced with state-by-state regulation.
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