Consumer Health Digest #06-39

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 26, 2007

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

Serious disease outbreak traced to "organic" food marketer. The FDA has announced that all spinach implicated in the current outbreak of E coli diarrhea has been traced back to Natural Selection Foods LLC of San Juan Bautista, California. This determination is based on epidemiological and laboratory evidence obtained by multiple states and coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). E. coli O157:H7 can cause diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults recover completely within a week, some people develop a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can be fatal. To date the CDC has received reports of 187 cases of illness due to E. coli O157:H7 infection, including 29 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), 97 hospitalizations and one death. Natural Selection Foods has issued a recall of all implicated products, and four other companies have issued secondary recalls because they received the recalled product from Natural Selection. Spinach processed by other manufacturers has not been implicated in the outbreak. The FDA Web site contains additional information that includes product names. [FDA announces findings from investigation of foodborne E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in spinach. FDA press release, Sept 29, 2006] Natural Selection Foods has described itself as North America's largest supplier of specialty salads and organic produce. Its organic products are marketed under the Earthbound Farm brand. [Fact sheet. Natural Selection Web site, archived June 30, 2004] Natural Selection Foods is offering to reimburse out-of-pocket medical expenses of people with officially confirmed E coli infections linked to use of its products.

Dr. Phil suit class-action suit settled. An agreement has been reached to settle a lawsuit against psychologist Phil McGraw and a company through which he marketed dietary supplements and meal-replacement products under the "Shape Up!" brand name. The suit, filed in Los Angeles in 2004, alleged that McGraw falsely claimed that the products would cause weight loss by promoting fat metabolism and reducing carbohydrate cravings and appetite swings. The products, which cost about $120 for a month's supply, were supposedly tailored for the person's "body type," a concept that has no scientific support. The settlement agreement calls for the establishment of a recover fund will be established consisting of $6.0 million of Nutrilite Daily Multivitamin Multimineral, 6-month supply, and $4.5 million in cash, out of which all costs and attorneys fees will be paid. McGraw will have no personal obligation to contribute to the Fund. The agreement provides benefits to people who can establish that they bought Shape Up! products on or before July 1, 2006. It also provides benefits to certain charitable organizations to be selected by the parties and approved by the court. The suit and settlement agreement are posted on Casewatch. Instructions for claimants have been posted to a Shape-Up! settlement site.

Products seized from MLM company. At the FDA's request, U.S. Marshals have seized about $55,000 worth of Ellagimax capsules, Coral Max capsules, Coral Max without Iron capsules, and Advanced Arthritis Support capsules distributed by Advantage Nutraceuticals L.L.C. of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Although these products were labeled as "dietary supplements," they were promoted with claims typically associated with drug products, including claims of effectiveness against cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and seizures. The claims persisted even though the FDA had warned the company to stop. [FDA asks U.S. marshals to seize dietary supplements: Products being promoted with drug claims. FDA news release, Sept 6, 2006]

Xango warned about illegal claims. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned XanGo International of Lehi, Utah, to stop the distribution of brochures which claim that its Mangosteen Juice drink has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti-ulcer, and anti-allergic effects and a long list of other potential health benefits. [Collins BB. Warning letter to Gary Hollister, Sept 20, 2006] XanGo International is a multilevel marketing company that sells products through independent distributors who are encouraged to recruit other distributors. The FDA obtained the brochures through contact information given at a recruitment seminar. A company attorney has stated that XanGo should not be held responsible for the claims because the brochures were distributed by an independent publisher that shows up uninvited to its workshops. [Fantin L, Gehrke R. XanGo and the FDA. The Salt Lake Tribune, Sept 29, 2006] The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database states that there is insufficient information to conclude that mangosteen if effective.

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This page was posted on October 4, 2006.