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How ‘COVID-washing’ became the new greenwashing

An onset of consumer goods that feed off the fear of coronavirus reveals a disheartening reality: There’s no better time for capitalism to shine than during a pandemic.

From dietary supplements to juices to pants (yes, pants) and bedsheets, brands are employing a cruel kind of marketing to sell their products. The strategy, unique to the year 2020, might be dubbed “COVID-washing.” Like greenwashing before it, where companies convey misleading information that their products are sustainable, COVID-washing draws in consumers by conveying the false impression that a certain product can cure or repel COVID-19. There’s a range within which brands can implement COVID-washing, from explicitly advertising an antiviral power to associating with the concept of “immunity boosting.”

Dietary supplements, already an infamously scammy industry, often play on the artless side of COVID-washing, outright promising to derail the spread of coronavirus. According to a warning letter issued by the Food and Drug Administration in early March, a company called Vivify Holistic Clinic offered supplements, teas, and tinctures that promoted antiviral benefits; some claimed to prevent infection from coronavirus. (According to the warning letter, the company directed its consumers to a website entitled CoronavirusDefense.com to purchase its products; the site is now defunct.)

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