Health Chair Levine Calls to End “Flat Tummy” Tea Sales to Minors

*RELEASE* April 11, 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn, jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY -- City Council Health Chair Mark Levine has introduced legislation that would ban the sale of products such as ‘detox teas’ and ‘flat-tummy’ lollipops to minors in NYC.

The non-Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved products have greatly risen in popularity in recent years, in large part due to aggressive celebrity promotion on social media, headlined by non-other than influencers like the Kardashians. The new legislation seeks to both curb teen access to the potentially dangerous products, and raise awareness about the issue of their marketing tactics and effect on those struggling with eating disorders.

Citing safety concerns, Health Chair Levine’s legislation would make it illegal to sell products whose active ingredients include senna, a laxative; and saffron, an appetite suppressant, to those under 18 in the City of New York.

Said Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. S. Bryn Austin, “Dietary supplements sold for detox or weight loss are snake oil, plain and simple. Weight loss claims for these products are either outright sham or a result of adulteration of the products with potentially dangerous stimulants, laxatives or diuretics.”

“We need to call these products out for what they are: a dangerous scam,” said Council Health Chair Levine. “There’s no legitimate basis for a teenager to buy ‘detox’ teas--which are laxatives masquerading as a wellness health product--or ‘flat-tummy’ lollipops--which are candy-coated appetite suppressants. In the rare case a young person has a legitimate medical need, it should be discussed with their parents, their doctor or a certified nutrition expert. These products are not FDA approved and there are serious questions their effects.”

Detox teas are technically dietary supplements, meaning they aren't subject to pre-market screening by the FDA, however the federal agency has reported over 13 deaths from laxative tea abuse and cautions that those “with certain health conditions should ask a healthcare professional before using these products because they may be at increased risk for harmful side effects” such as dehydration, cardiac arrhythmia, and severe kidney damage. Consuming detox teas can even interfere with birth control according to Skinny-Teatox, a company that sells senna-based teas.

Health Chair Levine also said, “I’m hopeful this legislation will begin to call attention to this issue while also shielding minors from the threat dangers of relying on products like these. We need to step up and send a better message to young people about healthy nutrition, not dangerous shortcuts like ‘flat-tummy’ lollipops.”

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