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FTC Clamping Down On Nutrition Influencers Over Artificial Sweetener Promotions—Here’s What To Know


The Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to two food and beverage trade associations and a dozen dieticians and social media health influencers for inadequately disclosing paid posts and who was paying them for posts promoting artificial sweeteners and sugary foods—a crackdown the FTC hopes sets a precedent across all influencer marketing.

Key Facts

A dozen diet and health influencers from Instagram and TikTok received individual letters from the FTC addressing almost three dozen apparently paid posts, including some disputing and downplaying a report from the World Health Organization on the dangers of aspartame and posts about craving sugary foods such as ice cream, that either did not disclose they were made as part of a partnership, or contained inadequate disclosures of a paid partnership with the trade associations.

Each letter pointed out concerns with disclosures on sponsored posts that were either not clearly visible, vague by only using hashtags such as #ad or #paidpartnership, or did not clearly name the trade associations who were paying them for the video.

The influencers “could face civil penalties of up to $50,120 per violation” if they continue to inadequately disclose which posts are sponsored and by what companies, and have been asked to contact the FTC within 15 days to explain how they will address the FTC’s concerns.

The warning letters are meant to set a precedent for disclosing paid posts and partnerships among food influencers and all of influencer marketing, Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, told the Washington Post.

Neither the American Beverage Association nor the Canadian Sugar Institute immediately responded to Forbes’ request for comment.

Key Background

Last month, the Washington Post reported an investigation that found the food and beverage industry is paying influencers who are registered dieticians and health professionals to make posts promoting artificial sweeteners and other sugary foods such as candy and ice cream. The social media campaigns for the artificial sweetener aspartame, which is used in many foods and beverages such as Diet Coke, were reportedly in response to a report from the WHO in July that found aspartame is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” At the time, the American Beverage Association and the Canadian Sugar Institute said the influencers they paid to make content downplaying the WHO’s report about aspartame did adequately disclose the posts were sponsored, the Washington Post reported.


Levine told the Washington Post he expects the warning letters to “be heard loud and clear” not only by food and beverage companies and influencers, “but also in other industries that may think that influencers don’t need to disclose these connections.”

Big Number

$21.1 billion. That’s how much the influencer marketing industry is expected to be worth this year, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.

Further Reading

The food industry pays ‘influencer’ dietitians to shape your eating habits (The Washington Post)

What To Know About Aspartame: The Sugar Substitute In Diet Coke Declared As A Possible Cancer Risk By WHO (Forbes)

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