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JUST CALL ME DOC SHERLOCK
From Dr Jon's letter: Supplement Frauds + Kat Induced Disaster
Saturday, January 2003
In December I visited Sam's Club (WallMart under a different name). While
perusing their cheap supplements something dawned on me. Almost none had the
"Cap Seal", the ring of plastic which prevents one from opening the bottle
without destroying the seal. This seemed odd for the seal only adds about
1/2 cent/bottle to the manufacturing costs. It was easy to unscrew the cap
and carefully peel back the inner seal exposing the pills. One could easily
insert poison and reseal. A terrorist, or very sick person, could do a great
deal of harm and no one would realize it until it was too late.
Then, I became suspicious reasoning, "If these people refuse to spend 1/2
cent for safety, I wonder if the contents are what is claimed on the
label?". For years I have warned you that many so-called cheap supplements
are little more that a giant fraud as there is little regulation. When I
launched the Co-Op in 2001 I received some hard to believe low prices from
suppliers. When I had an independent laboratory test them, they failed
One egregious example was an offer of 50,000 bottles of a pro-biotic formula
for $1.55/bottle claiming billions of friendly bacteria. The best quote,
from a known reliable laboratory, was over $8.00. It didn't take a rocket
scientist to realize that something was very "fishy". The lab report
confirmed that it did indeed have a few billion bugs . . . all quite dead. I
confronted the supplier with the lab data. The response was, "So what, the
suckers will never know the difference!".
Another cheap source are products which didn't sell and the expiration date
has passed. The original manufacturer dumps them for .10-.20/bottle. It
costs about .15/bottle to relabel them with a new expiration date. Guess
what is in those $1.00/bottle supplements you buy????
Back to the Sam's/WallMart investigation. I purchased several of their
bargain(??) supplements and sent them to a lab for analysis. I was about to
publish the lab reports when my shyster....uh....attorney warned me that if
I did, the skies would darken with their lawyers descending upon me. In a
rare moment of prudence, I decided to follow my counsel's advice. Suffice to
say that I wouldn't use these products if they were free.
Most of you know I have recommended products from:
These people took over the Co-Op last March paying only for the inventory. I
have no connection with them or their products. However, I do recommend them
from time to time due to their demand of quality and testing. (e.g. 90-500mg
cold water fish oil soft gels for under $3.00) The fact that their prices
are hard to believe is due to them having a very big bankroll, huge volume
and little interest in profit. The Palm Beach owners have been rich for many
years. Recently I spoke to one of the owners. I asked, "Are you making a
killing?". She smiled, "Well, yes, in one respect. While one may need a
magnifying glass to see the net profit, we get a very warm, fuzzy feeling
knowing that thousands are receiving affordable supplements of high
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CO-OP REFERED TO ABOVE:
Q: How do you keep your prices so low? Your prices look almost too good to
be true! Forgive this skeptic's question!
A: Here's how we keep costs down:
- No sales people with commissions (also no telemarketing and no multi-level
marketing pyramid costs either)!
- No advertising budget
- No public relations firm
- Generic brand with no fancy materials included with products
- No printed literature -- everything is on the web site & electronic
newsletters cost next-to-nothing, especially when compared to direct
- No toll-free hotline -- and phone orders limited to 10-4, M-F
- No fancy web site -- all done "in-house" except for credit card processing
(Verisign) and shopping cart software (1shoppingcart.com)
- No labor costs over the weekend -- shipping and orders are strictly M-F
- No returns policy and no changes to orders once placed (we try to catch
changes if we can, but our shipping process is really basic, so we encourage
members to place orders carefully)
- Management that have hands-on responsibilities (no absentee landlords
being paid for ownership only)
Q: How do you keep quality high?
A: Here's how we ensure quality:
- We only work with U.S. manufacturers, who are good manufacturing processes
(GMP) certified and inspected by state health departments and under FDA
- All of our products come with Certificates of Analysis and authenticity.
- We develop long-term relationships with our vendors. We don't put our
products "out to bid" to unfamiliar suppliers.
- We conduct independent testing of all product productions, working with
GMP- and FDA-certified labs. We test for pesticides and heavy metals as
well as label claims.
- We are choosy about the origin of our raw materials and often specify
distributors or countries of origin with excellent reputations.
- We opt for standardized extracts vs. powders in our products (i.e., we use
40% beta sitosterol, while cheaper products are using the non-standardized
powders of undetermined amounts of active beta sitosterol).
- Where possible, we have moved to branded ingredients (e.g., Tonalin CLA,
Lyc-o-mato Lycopene, FloraGLO lutein, etc.), to support member trust.
- We buy organic ingredients whenever possible (e.g., it took us some time
to procure organic broccoli for our Greens Plus product, but we found it,
- We have transitioned our products away from using any artificial colorings
(only a couple of products were affected).
- We have put our money where our mouth is and rejected shipments of
products, causing a drop in our own business due to "out-of-stock"
situations. We think it's worth it to suffer short-term losses to ensure
long-term loyalty of our members.
- We don't offer every product that is "hot." We were very picky about our
probiotics choice, since many, many probiotics have "dead bugs." As a
mail-order business, we needed a room temperature stable product. Again, we
gave up revenue (more than 6 months) because we were unwilling to commit to
a product that we had no faith in and waited for the five-strain product
backed by research that counts.
- We work with some leading industry consultants, who have hundreds of years
of combined experience, access to hundreds of supplements industry
subscriptions and thousands of research resources! We're not a mom-and-pop
shop reading the latest hype in the supplements magazines, which are often
informed by biased interests (e.g., vendors hyping their newest products
through "articles," positioned based on their advertising spend).
- We listen to members, who requested that we offer our Kid-Vites in a
child-proof cap and that we reformulate some our large serving tablets into
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