Feb 23, 2013
“Dear Mr. Adams, there are things we don’t talk about in the natural products industry…” Such began a message sent to me by the founder of a nutritional products company. It was sent in reaction to my posting of my “organic China fraud” article that questioned the legitimacy of organic certification for foods and superfoods grown in China.
This article has sent shockwaves through the natural products industry, an industry that has its own “dirty little secrets” that no one dare talk about.
For over a decade, I passionately promoted this industry, advocating superfoods like chlorella and spirulina, all while companies selling the products raked in hundreds of millions dollars in profit off the publicity we helped generate here at Natural News. I helped educate tens of millions of people about superfoods, micro-algae, nutritional supplements and natural cures, and all the while, I never made a single dollar on this editorial promotion of the industry. (And I was happy with that. This was never about profit.)
Natural News helped make millionaires by promoting their products and publicizing their names. We helped publicize companies that were later sold off for tens of millions of dollars. And we did it gladly, happily, believing that we were advocating the healthiest, cleanest foods on Earth for our readers.
And then something appeared on my radar. In late 2012, I oversaw the process of getting organically certified for packing and handling organic food. I helped source organic raw materials to be offered in the Natural News Store. And in this process, I was shocked to discover that organic standards utterly lack any limits on heavy metals contamination of “organic” products.
It’s true: A product can be USDA certified organic and still be heavily contaminated with mercury. Don’t believe me? Check around. It’s the truth. (Virtually no one knows this, and nobody talks about it. Even I didn’t know this until recently.)
But the real kicker is when I learned that a huge portion of “organic” foods, superfoods and raw materials are sourced from China. Why does this matter? Because as we showed in our previous article, China is arguably the worst-polluted country on the planet that’s producing a large quantity of “organic” products.
And as we found out in laboratory tests on one particular superfood (chlorella), the “organic” product coming out of China that we tested had nearly ten times the contamination of the “organic” product from Taiwan. And the cleanest product we tested wasn’t certified organic at all.
Hidden GMO flow agents in conventional products from China
In the process of sourcing raw materials such as freeze-dried fruit powders, we also learned — shockingly — that the vast majority of conventional fruit and vegetable powders coming out of China are cut with hidden flow agents which aren’t even listed on the label. The No. 1 flow agent? Maltodextrin derived from genetically modified corn.
Some people are telling me that I shouldn’t be talking about these things publicly. These “secrets” of the industry are what allow everybody to make money, and if I want to make money, I was told, I should essentially “shut up” and play along with the rest of the industry. Keep selling “organic” products grown in China and laced with heavy metals. Don’t talk about hidden flow agents from GM corn. Don’t talk about the fact that the USDA organic certification process allows essentially unlimited levels of mercury contamination. I’m supposed to shut up and stop making waves.
Well shame on the rest of you for knowing all this and covering it up. The public has a right to know the truth about what they’re eating. Wasn’t that the whole point of the GMO labeling campaign in California? We have the right to know?
I think we have the right to know what’s in certified organic products.
I believe we have the right to know. And if that makes me unpopular across certain segments of the natural products industry, then so be it. If it means I don’t make much money because I can’t buy super-cheap “organic” products from China and mark them up 600% at retail, then so be it. I’d much rather tell the truth and raise awareness than play along with a insider secrets that only serve the industry, not the customer. I’d rather sell NOTHING than sell something containing unacceptably high levels of metals and other contaminants.
(And, for the record, EVERYTHING is contaminated at some level. Everything has at least part per billion of mercury in it. Nearly all food contains aluminum, even up to 190ppm. There is no such thing as 100% free of all contaminants. This is a question of the LEVELS of contaminants. How can we minimize these things?)
I’m in good company with these concerns, by the way: other companies like Nature’s Path are far more concerned with integrity and quality than pure profit. That’s the category we’re in here at Natural News: If we can’t offer something that’s the cleanest available, I won’t offer it at all.
And when I see deception in the industry, YES, I’m going to write about it. I’m not covering up for other people’s dirty laundry. I’m not “playing ball” with a big cover-up. If I see something fishy in the industry, I’m going to write about it. More importantly (see below), I’m going to push for the industry to clean up its act and improve its transparency so that customers know what they’re eating. If I don’t do it, it’s only a matter of time before the mainstream media covers it in a far more destructive investigative report.
Organic from China hurts U.S. and Canadian organic farmers
Another big angle on all this that nobody seems to want to acknowledge is that North American organic growers have been economically decimated by cheap, frequently-contaminated “organic” food production in China.
A typical U.S. farmer is buried under regulatory compliance. They have to fill out seemingly endless piles of paperwork for the FDA and the EPA. They can’t simply bribe their way out of this like you can in China. In the USA and Canada, you actually have to comply.
For those reasons, organic foods, superfoods and supplements grown in the USA are 300% – 400% more expensive than those produced in China. When natural produce formulators in the USA buy raw ingredients from China instead of from U.S. farmers, they shift agricultural jobs to China and hurt U.S. and Canadian farmers by putting them out of business.
No wonder I received so many words of thanks from U.S. organic farmers after they read my previous article. One of them said, “We hope your article encourages more people to consider sourcing organic materials domestically.” And that’s exactly the point. While the USA isn’t perfect and still has its own environmental pollution problems, it is orders of magnitude cleanerthan China, where the environment has been turned into a national toilet where all the factories flush their chemicals, pesticides and metals. Remember: Rivers in China are so polluted that you would DIE if you swam in them.
Environmental regulations are far more strictly enforced in the USA, Canada and across most of Europe. Plus, corruption is much more difficult in these countries: You can’t easily bribe regulators to ignore your pollution. But in China, bribing regulators is routine. It’s a cultural habit. That’s how big polluters keep on polluting. It’s why 90% of the groundwater in China’s cities is toxic, and it’s why 40% of the country’s rivers are “seriously polluted.”
So an organic product produced on a farm in the USA, or Canada, or France is consistently going to be far cleaner than an organic product produced in China. While there may be rare exceptions to this rule, the truth of this observation is undeniable. Nobody has told me I was wrong in my facts on all this. They old told me to stop talking about it.
Buying from China isn’t buying local
We all talk about “buying local”, so then why do so many companies source their raw materials from China? That’s the other side of the planet. How more non-local can you possibly get?
Sure, for some superfoods like goji berries, China has the best product and there’s really nowhere else that compares. (For the record, there are several different “grades” of goji berries grown in China. The ones grown at high altitude in clean environments have very low levels of pesticides and are more expensive. The cheaper, low-grade goji berries, on the other hand, tend to be more contaminated.) If you want the best cacao, you have to go to South America. There’s no way around that. But for things like pomegranate powder, why aren’t more companies buying that in the USA? The same is true for broccoli powder, barley grass powder, oat grass powder, brown rice extracts and so on.
The answer is because it’s often only about PRICE. China is cheaper, and that’s all that matters. So they buy from China, and often it gets “certified” organic by a certifier in China, and we all just blindly believe that because it’s certified, it must be free of metals, chemicals and pharmaceutical residues. But that’s a lie. It’s the BIG LIE of the natural products industry, in fact. And it’s a lie that I refuse to cover for.
Another dirty little secret, by the way, is that some products are grown in the USA, then shipped to china and processed with toxic chemical solvents, then shipped back to the USA. I’ll write more about that little scam in a future article…
We need to clean up our industry
I’ve already received word that several superfood formulators, after reading my article, are re-formulating to exclude all ingredients from China. They are actively sourcing materials from the USA, Canada, South America and Europe. And when they’re done reformulating, they will be able to claim “100% China-free” on their labels.
I am committing right now to publicizing those products that are China-free. I have no financial interest in doing so, and I will list them here on Natural News for free, in a feature article, even if we don’t carry those products in our store.
I want to help promote products that support clean organics; that are made from ingredients sourced in North America, Europe, Taiwan and other countries with far better environmental standards.
And so that’s my promise. I will need to see the C of A’s on these products, but if I receive those and they check out, I will gladly offer those products and those companies free publicity on Natural News as part of an article listing all the “China-free” products in the industyr.
This is a big deal. The article I published on organics out of China caused far more of a stir than I expected it would. Consumers are calling their suppliers and asking about the country of origin of the primary ingredients. This is a good thing. Consumers have a right to know. Supplement formulators have a responsibility to know what they’re selling. They have a responsibility to conduct their own lab tests on materials from China and to publicize those lab tests. And even though some of those companies are angry at myself and Natural News right now, this is actually a very important conversation for the natural products industry to have.
Because, God forbid, can you imagine somebody like CBS News or TIME Magazine getting a hold of this story first? I can just see the cover of TIME Magazine: “ORGANIC DISCREDITED” and then feature a column by Dr. Oz (who already attacked organics in a previous issue) saying that lab tests show “organic” products are contaminated with heavy metals — but without explaining that they selected only “organic” products from China to conduct the tests.
They would exploit this information to discredit the entire industry. And that would be a huge mistake because the organic industry is the best thing going for all of us who want clean, healthy food. That’s why I’m pushing for this industry to clean up its act. Disclose the country of origin for your ingredients. If you buy from China, publish lab tests that test your raw materials for metals. Honor your customers by disclosing this information!
We are funding ongoing lab tests for ALL our raw materials, even if sourced from the USA. Our tests will show levels of aluminum, cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic. The results will be posted publicly as they are available. My goal is to have full transparency with our customers, so that they know as accurately as possible what’s in the things they’re buying from us. Personally, I think that should be a common industry practice. Honest labeling. But the reason it isn’t done very often is because formulators and retailers don’t want the public to know!
Does that sound familiar? It’s the Monsanto strategy. And yes, the Monsanto strategy of “keep customers ignorant” is alive and well in the natural products industry right now. And it’s got to stop. Natural News is going to continue to bring pressure to the entire industry to disclose the lab test results of their products.
How are we doing that? We are buying and testing popular nutritional products, and we are going to publicize the results. Some results will be good; others will be bad. We’re going to publicize them all and let the numbers speak for themselves. I do NOT intend to name brand names, as it is not my intention to embarrass any particular brand. Instead, my intention is to motivate the industry to clean up its act by publishing trends and observations of what’s out there.
Threats of lawsuits against Natural News for blowing the whistle will be met with us publicizing all such threats and naming names, however. Anyone who tries to silence Natural News in this research for the public good will be exposed as attempting to do so.
ACTION items for organic product consumers
• ASK your product suppliers whether they use raw materials from China.
• If they do, ASK for U.S. laboratory testing of their raw materials, and ask to see the results.
• SEEK to buy from formulators who avoid using raw materials from China, where possible.
• CHECK the country of origin of everything you buy. It matters.
ACTION items for organic product formulators
• If you do source ingredients from China, test them for common contaminants, then publicize your test results so your customers can see them.
• If you don’t source any ingredients from China. Let your customers know! Publicize “100% China-free” on your website or label. Or say, “No ingredients sourced from China.”
• If you are 100% China-free, let Natural News know! We would like to start listing those brands and companies that are consciously avoiding materials sourced from China.
This article was posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 8:30 am