Law360 (July 27, 2020, 10:59 PM EDT) -- The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office reached a deal with a health food store to resolve claims that it has been peddling radish paste as a product for protection against the novel coronavirus, the office announced Monday, saying the shop will pay a $20,000 civil penalty.
The agreement, filed in California Superior Court, stipulates that Koreatown-based Insan Healing and its CEO Angela Oh will refund everyone who bought the radish paste product — marketed as a protection against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — and will no longer make untrue or misleading statements about the product.
Oh and Insan Healing agreed to stop making certain statements about the product in connection to COVID-19, such as that it "Keeps your lungs and respiratory strong," it's "A must-have product to enhance immunity," or that "Radish Paste is an immunity boost to your lungs," according to the agreement.
"Consumers who are misled into believing in a false COVID-19 prevention or cure might forego the steps we all need to take, from wearing masks to washing hands to physically distancing," Los Angeles City Attorney Michael N. Feuer said in a statement Monday. "In this pandemic, our residents' lives depend on accurate information."
A spokesman for Oh and Insan Healing said there is no admission of liability or to the truthfulness of the allegations in the complaint. While the defendants agreed to stop using certain language, the spokesman said the settlement is for the purpose of promoting a fast resolution and to avoid unnecessary disputes and costly litigation.
There are currently more than 176,000 cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles, according to the county's health department Monday evening, and 4,375 deaths have been attributed to the illness.
To date, there are no specific medicines recommended to treat or prevent the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization, but those infected with the virus should receive care to relieve and treat symptoms. The WHO said specific treatments are under investigation and efforts are being made to accelerate the research for a vaccine.
According to the complaint against Insan Healing, which was filed back in May, the health food store was marketing a fake "must-have product for the protection and prevention of the COVID-19." The product is a mixture of 80% radish paste, garlic, ginger and other herbs, according to the suit.
The suit makes claims of untrue or misleading representations and unfair competition in violation of California's Business and Professions Code.
Immediately after the lawsuit was filed, the LA Attorney's Office said Insan Healing took down the advertising for the radish paste product and agreed to an injunction prohibiting them from making those claims.
Under the proposed agreement, which is subject to court approval, customers who bought the radish paste between March 17 and May 14 will receive refunds of their purchases. Insan Healing will also pay $20,000 in civil penalties, according to the city attorney's office.
The LA City Attorney's Office has been aggressively pursuing businesses that tout so-called cures, tests and preventative measures for COVID-19.
In April, the office reached a deal with genetic testing company Yikon Genomics Inc. to resolve claims that it was illegally advertising and selling at-home coronavirus testing kits that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
That same month, the office accused RootMD Inc., an online retailer selling tests and products for chronic gut diseases, of falsely advertising and selling unapproved at-home coronavirus tests. When the suit was filed, the company took the kits off their website and has since settled the matter, according to court records.
Outside of Los Angeles, the U.S. Department of Justice has also been going after scam artists who are trying to make a dime off of the pandemic.
A San Diego Botox and hair removal doctor was accused of touting a $4,000 coronavirus "miracle cure" kit, while a British man was accused of trying to ship a fake panacea labeled as a coronavirus treatment from the United Kingdom to California and Utah.
More recently, the DOJ shut down a series of related websites and a Facebook page offering preregistration for a nonexistent COVID-19 vaccine in exchange for $100 worth of bitcoin.
In the instant case, the People of the State of California are represented by Wilfredo R. Rivera, Christina V. Tusan, William R. Pletcher, Rebecca A. Morse, Miguel Ruiz and Alex Bergjans of the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.
Oh and Insan Healing are represented by Yong Bom Lee of Lee Law Firm.
The case is the People of the State of California v. Knature Co. Inc. et al., case number 20STCV18300, in California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles.
--Additional reporting by Dave Simpson. Editing by Steven Edelstone.
For a reprint of this article, please contact email@example.com.