Supplement ads use fabricated Canadian endorsements

Multiple ads spreading across Facebook promote weight loss products with supposed approval from Canadian institutions and public figures. But a doctor featured in the ads said she never contributed to the supplements' development, and Health Canada has not approved them.

"The University of Toronto partnered with GNC to unveil a remarkable product. Endorsed by a constellation of celebrities across the USA and Canada," says a May 27, 2024 Facebook ad.

The post features logos from the University of Toronto, Health Canada and the American nutritional manufacturer GNC alongside a picture of Canadian journalist Lisa LaFlamme (archived here). The ad claims "influential figures" have "personally incorporated this product into their wellness routines."

Several other ads from the same account also use LaFlamme's likeness and allege approval by Canada's federal health agency.

<span>Screenshot of a Facebook post taken June 11, 2024</span>
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken June 11, 2024
<span>Screenshot of a Facebook post taken June 11, 2024</span>
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken June 11, 2024

The ads link to a website claiming to present an interview featuring LaFlamme and Gillian Booth, a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto (archived here), about the purported weight loss benefits of the supplement for the high-fat, low-carb keto diet.

However, Booth told AFP in a June 10 email that she never provided such an interview and did not contribute to product testing.

"The ad is a fake," she said. "They stole my identity and all of the information (to my knowledge) is fabricated."

<span>Screenshot of the ads' linked website taken June 11, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the ads' linked website taken June 11, 2024

Other posts on Facebook advertise a product with the label "FB Fastburn Keto," supposedly affiliated with the nutritional brand GNC, while a related website promotes an apple cider vinegar gummy from a brand called "Eternal Health."

Health Canada told AFP in a June 10 email that it has no record of either supplement in its database of licensed natural health products (NHPs).

"While NHPs are generally lower risk products, they aren't without risk," Health Canada said.

The website shared in the ads also does not appear to be affiliated with a supplement brand, as the URL refers to chiffon dresses.

AFP has previously fact-checked ads targeting Canadians that misappropriate public figures' likenesses.