The FTC has issued a warning to trade organizations and influencers in the food industry regarding proper disclosure of paid content on social media.


On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it had given warnings to two organizations in the food and beverage industry and twelve social media influencers for not properly disclosing their paid endorsements of a sweetener and sugary items.

The characters refer to social media posts on Instagram and TikTok created by influencers who were allegedly recruited by the American Beverage Association, a lobbying organization that includes Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo as members, and the Canadian Sugar Institute, which represents sugar manufacturers in Canada.

The notifications are a result of revised guidelines released by the agency in the summer. These guidelines state that influencers must clearly disclose when their social media posts are advertisements or promote products for companies in exchange for payment.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stated that it examined social media posts made by health influencers, including registered dietitians, who promote products that contain sugar and may have received compensation from the Canadian Sugar Institute.

The agency recently cautioned the American Beverage Association regarding social media posts that promote the safety of aspartame, a common sweetener used in diet soda and many other food products. In July, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency declared that the sweetener may potentially contribute to cancer, but other health experts convened by the organization have stated that aspartame is safe in limited amounts.

The American Beverage Association’s representative, William M. Dermody Jr., stated that the organization made careful efforts to ensure transparency regarding their partnership with dieticians who discussed the scientific evidence supporting the safety of aspartame and the FDA’s confirmation of its safety.

Dermody stated that there have been no concerns raised regarding the content of these posts. They will continue to uphold their promise to disclose the connection between dietitians and American Beverage, and they are grateful for the FTC’s advice on how to maintain transparency for consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that a portion of the posts it examined did not include any acknowledgments. While some posts included acknowledgments in the written description of the video, they were not present in the actual videos. A few dieticians mentioned their affiliation with “ameribev,” but the FTC deemed this insufficient as viewers may not recognize it as shorthand for the American Beverage Association.

“It’s irresponsible for any trade group to hire influencers to tout its members’ products and fail to ensure that the influencers come clean about that relationship,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

The trade groups were notified by the agency that their posts could potentially break federal regulations and result in a penalty of $50,120 per violation. The Canadian Sugar Institute did not provide a comment in response to this request.