Health: The Dangers of Allowing a Global Monopoly
Contributed to TLB by Author: Dr. Eldon Dahl
Those in the industry may have heard that recently, Nestle purchased Atrium Innovations, a Quebec supplement maker. The brands that will be affected by this US $2.3 billion purchase are: Garden of Life, Pure Encapsulations, Wobenzym, AOV, Douglas Laboratories, Genestra Brands, Klean Athlete, Minami Nutrition, Orthica, Pharmax, and Trophic.
Many natural health retailers have expressed outrage over this purchase, given Nestle’s ethical track record. The company made news when they tapped a natural spring in California, taking water from the drought-stricken community and forcing them to purchase it at an inflated rate. They commonly use cheap, third world labour–including child labour, which prompted a lawsuit against them last year.
These are just the more recent indiscretions, though. Nestle is a giant company, with properties which include baby food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. Let’s take a look at their history in some of these areas. Early on, Nestle promoted their infant formula to impoverished nations. However, this was problematic for multiple reasons. For one, these countries generally did not have access to clean water, so boiling would have been required. Even this was not clear to the mothers, though, due to low literacy rates. Even mothers who were literate struggled to understand the instructions for sterilization. Compounding the problem, mothers tried to stretch the formula out so it would last longer, which meant they used less than was instructed.
Perhaps worst of all, while Nestle would offer free formula samples to mothers in the hospital, once they were out, parents had to buy formula. Nestle did not take responsibility for these problems, but said something should be done about the lack of clean drinking water–which also became a convenient way to promote their bottled water later.
Nestle is actually the world’s largest producer of bottled water, and they are quite protective of their products. Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe once stated that the idea of water as a public right is “extreme.” In fact, in 2000, the company advocated to change access to drinking water from a “right” to a “need.” They drain their aquifers as much as possible; yet, in California, where much of their water is sourced, there is no legal means to force Nestle to disclose how much water they are taking. Similar problems are happening in Pakistan, where a Nestle well left locals without potable water. Ironically, although Nestle owns so many aquifers, at times they have been known to bottle tap water!
In 2005, the International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Nestle on behalf of three Malian children who had been trafficked, forced into slavery, and regularly beaten. An independent audit by the Fair Labor Association found that Nestle had multiple violations of their own supplier code, and had not carried out checks against child labor and abuse and, by extension, had not done much to improve those conditions, either.
There are many more areas of concern surrounding Nestle, which are expanded upon more here. It should be noted, though, that Nestle is not the only giant conglomerate that now owns supplement brands. New Chapter is owned by Procter & Gamble, and Clorox owns Renew Life. According to Clorox, part of Renew Life’s appeal was that its gross profit margins were “generally in line with its existing portfolio.”
With such huge conglomerates taking over natural products, something is bound to get lost in the shuffle. The conglomerates will not slow down the production process to ensure natural quality standards are in place. Instead, they will want to streamline operations and minimize costs as much as possible, which is where China comes in. As China’s influence has grown in other markets, it has also grown in the natural industry as well. In fact, the Seattle Times reported that China has over 90 per cent of the Vitamin C market in the United States.
The book Global Price Fixing: Our Customers are the Enemy also notes that China played a large role in drowning out the US market for B1, B2, B6, B12, and folic acid. However, disclosing the country of origin is not a requirement for supplement labeling. This should be concerning, as food safety scandals are commonplace in China–their top vitamin and supplement production areas are among the world’s most polluted. Stateside protections for these products are also weak, at best: only 2 per cent of all vitamins and supplements are inspected, and even USDA organic standards place no limit on heavy metal contamination for certified organic foods.
Where does this leave consumers? Unfortunately, the window of reliable natural brands is shrinking, so those who want to support the natural industry should do their homework about which brands have not been bought out. We are one of those few brands. We would encourage customers to vote with their dollars, and support like-minded companies.
About the Author: Eldon Dahl, Doctorate in natural medicine, founded a nutraceutical line in 1986 using the brand name Your Choice, later Life Choice®. Life Choice® was founded with a commitment to provide the natural health industry and its clientèle with supplements of the finest quality, in precise formulations, following the highest possible standards. Life Choice® is committed to providing licensed products that distinguish themselves as effective alternatives to allopathic medicine.
TLB has done the research and highly recommends Life Choice products. Please visit Dr. Dahl’s website for information on how you can protect and improve your health in a very natural and homeopathic fashion (click on image below).
Click on the image below to visit TLB Project on twitter …