1990 Slim Chance Awards

Each year, Frances M. Berg, M.S., who operates the Healthy Weight Network presents "Slim Chance Awards" to promoters of weight-loss schemes. Here are the awards for 1990:.

Most Outrageous: Cho Low Tea

In promoting Cho Low Tea, Australian Peter Foster proved that a nationwide newspaper ad can pull one-quarter of a million dollars in only five days for a product that does not exist. Foster made his fortune in England but escaped to the United States in 1989 amid charges he bilked consumers of nearly $7 million in an oriental-tea slimming scam. Despite his hard-sell claims for it, in the United States, there never was any tea; he eventually showed police several cheap brands that he suggested could be blended to fill orders. Sentenced to four months in county jail, 900 hours of community service picking up trash on the Los Angeles freeway, and a fine of $228,000 for unpaid newspaper advertising, after Los Angeles and federal authorities moved in quickly. Foster served time, but declined to pay the fine or pick up trash. Instead he fled to the Cayman Islands, where he reportedly has a large bank account.

Worst Product: Cal-Ban 3000

Cal-Ban 3000 is off the market after a five-y-ear roller-coaster operation of dodging the law on one hand, cranking out slick sales pitches on the other. In 1987 the U.S. Postal Service stopped their mail, but Cal-Ban promoters continued to sell through a toll-free number and UPS deliveries. Their aggressive marketing campaign gathered steam through the spring and early summer of 1990 as Cal-Ban broke into drugstore distribution systems. Suddenly it was everywhere—in prominent display.in Wal-Mart stores, Osco Drugs and the corner drugstore, on late night television and in journalistic-looking newspaper ads with datelines of Finland and Sweden. Injury reports escalated: Florida authorities said they had over 50; FDA reported 17 cases of esophageal obstruction and one death as a result of surgery to remove an obstruction in the throat. By the end of July it was over. Authorities closed out the $30 million Florida operation and asked merchants to remove Cal-Ban from their shelves.

Honorable Mention

Two other diet pills are also noteworthy for their advertising gimmicks.

This article was posted on December 22, 2008.

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