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The Great Vitamin Scam: How Orrin Hatch Hijacked Your Health

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Buying the right politician can do more for a brand than any amount of marketing.

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"We're going through a revolution in food," Thomas Pirko, president of Bevmark consulting, whose clients include Coke (KO), Kraft (KFT), and Nestlé, told Forbes. "It's a whole new consciousness -- every product has to be adding to your health or preventing you from getting sick." If you find the perfect additive, he said, "you get rich."

Lynda Resnick, who, with her husband Stewart, owns Pomegranate juice producers POM Wonderful, believe their product "adds to peoples' health" and "prevents them from getting sick."

In 2005, Lynda said, "Two years ago, nobody in America knew what a pomegranate was. Now, we're in Walmart (WMT) for God's sake, we're in Costco (COST), we're in 7-Eleven. I want POM Wonderful to be within arm's reach of everyone who wants it. That is the biggest service I can do."

The Federal Trade Commission disagrees.

A few weeks ago, the FTC issued an administrative complaint charging the Resnicks with "making false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction."

As it turns out, POM hasn't been proven to do any of these things, which the Resnicks -- who also own Fiji Water -- of course, dispute.

Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, founder and president of the American Council on Science and Health, tells Minyanville that the makers of products like POM have been exploiting loopholes available to the health food industry that the mainstream food industry does not enjoy.

"What's we're seeing here is really a double standard," she says. "They are basically immune from FDA action because of the special protection given to supplements [and functional foods], which exist in a special non-food, non-drug space. If you can get people to view food as medicine, you've got a willing, vulnerable audience. Did you ever wonder why so much of the nutritional supplement industry is based in Utah? You can trace much of it back to Senator Orrin Hatch."

Utah? Orrin Hatch? Huh?

"He is by far our greatest advocate", says Loren Israelson, executive director of the Utah Natural Products Alliance (now called the United Natural Products Alliance), which is an association of dietary supplement and functional food companies that form an alliance to challenge the FDA's 'aggressive and inappropriate enforcement actions'... "No one rises to the issue the way Senator Hatch does. He's a true believer in natural health."

Hatch is, in fact, a true believer -- his belief in the Book of Mormon begets his belief in nutritional supplements.

Israelson says 70% of Utah residents are Mormons, and many Mormons believe Mormon scripture instructs followers to use "God's medicine" or herbs, for their well-being.

As such, many Utah supplement companies are owned or operated by Mormons. According to Time Magazine, "Early Mormon writings praised the 'plants and roots, which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases.' In the 1940s, Mormon herbalist John Christopher preached about natural healing. A few decades later, three Utah companies -- Nature's Herbs, Nature's Way and Nature's Sunshine -- began selling his formulas."
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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