Oh the confusion …. CSPI gets it (mostly) very wrong.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a somewhat voracious “defender” of a healthy lifestyle. While I agree with many of their positions, I disagree with much of the way they go about it, with attacks on various foods and supplements that often go outside scientific support and verge on obsession. I think they need to remember that stressing too much about what you’re eating can be more damaging to the health than whatever it is you are actually eating!

Anyway, this week CSPI set it’s eyes on Amway and Nutrilite in a letter to Amway President Steve Van Andel and a widely circulated press release. At best their claims against Amway are confused. At worst they are outright deceptive. They are also incredibly ironic!

CSPI attacks Amway over Nutrilite twist tubes, mentioning in particular two products, Nutrilite Fruit & Vegetables 2GO twist tubes  and Strawberry Kiwi flavored Immunity Twist Tubes. CSPI’s letter and press release show a lack of due diligence on their part both with regards the products they attack and Amway itself, as well as, surprisingly, a lack of understanding of FDA regulations. I’ll start with their confusing, and misleading press release.

In the release they say -

“Fruits & Vegtables 2GO” has “the antioxidant equivalent of two of the 9–13 daily servings of fruits and vegetables your body needs,” according to Amway. But there’s far more to fruits and vegetables than just antioxidants, according to CSPI.

Oh the irony. CSPI is pretty much parroting Nutrilite’s greatest marketing differential back at Nutrilite to falsely criticise a Nutrilite product. Yes, CSPI, you are right. There is far more to fruits and vegetables than just antioxidants. It’s what Nutrilite has been saying for nearly 80 years. That’s why Fruits & vegetables 2GO has actual fruit and vegetables in it! A review of the ingredient label shows it includes “Acerola Cherry Concentrate … Pomegranate, Cranberry, Blueberry, Carrot, and Red Beet Juice Concentrates”. Real fruit and real vegetables, complete with all those phytochemicals CSPI correctly points out are important.

CSPI seems to have assumed that Amway’s products are like most other competitors in the nutritional supplements category – composed of synthetic isolates. In general, they’re not. That’s the Nutrilite difference. In their letter to Steve Van Andel, CSPI goes further -

Amway claims that “60mg of vitamin C from NUTRILITE Acerola Cherry Concentrate [provides] the natural vitamin C equivalent of about one mango or 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli” and “5 mg of Beta carotene from the algae plant [provides] the natural beta carotene equivalent of about one medium carrot or one cupe of cataloupe.” These claims suggest that the ingestion of isolate vitamins or antioxidants have the same benefit as the ingestion of whole foods such as mango, broccoli, carrots, or cataloupe that countain those vitamins and antioxidants. This is not the case, and suggesting as much is deceptive to consumers.

CSPI has somehow come to the conclusion that “Nutrilite Acerola Cherry Concentrate” is somehow an “isolated vitamin”. It’s not. It’s exactly what it says, Acerola Cherry Concentrate. Amway also clearly states that it’s natural beta carotene, from algae, provides the equivalent beta carotene as a carrot or some cantaloupe. “equivalent” is not “the same“. A cup of cantaloupe is not the same as a medium carrot is not the same as some algae. Contrary to CSPI’s claims, Amway nowhere suggests they are, and I can’t see how this is at all “deceptive to consumers”

Now, the Strawberry/Kiwi flavored immunity twist tube is one of those exceptions from “the Nutrilite difference”. It doesn’t contain fruit and vegetables as nutritional sources, it’s primarily Vitamin C as ascorbic acid (almost certainly synthetic). Personally I, and others who contribute to this blog and Amway Talk, were a little bit disappointed in the twist tube products when they came out, because they didn’t uphold the Nutrilite difference. The Fruit & Vegetables 2GO product, released fairly recently, begins to address that. Still, CSPI’s criticisms of this product verge on the childish. Despite the very name of the product saying it’s “Strawberry and Kiwi flavored dietary supplement”, CSPI apparently believes the pictures of a kiwi and a strawberry on the front misleads consumers in to thinking it has actual fruit in it. That might be true if you were already aware of the normal Nutrilite approach, but for the vast majority of consumers – really? A can of fanta has a picture of an orange on the front. Do people really believe it contains oranges? Pictures of fruit on packaging are an extremely common approach for depicting the flavor of a product. Is CSPI going to threaten to sue them all?

CSPI also criticises this product for the claim that  it is a an “immune system booster” that will “protect your cells.”  CSPI believes this claim is deceptive as it implies it prevents or cures disease – a no no under FDA rules. They’re wrong. This is what are categorised by the FDA as “structure/function” claim, not a disease claim. The idea that antioxidants are import in protecting cells and the immune system is well established, I believe Amway is on safe ground on this issue.

There is one area where I think CSPI is correct in their criticism. They state - “Also, both product lines contain the artificial sweetener sucralose, despite a print advertisement for “fruits & vegetables 2GO” that claims the product has no artificial ingredients.”

Both products state on their packages and on the Amway website that they contain “no artificial colors or flavors”. This is correct. Personally I think this kind of marketing line does verge on deceptive as many people would interpret it as “nothing artificial” rather than just limited to colors or flavorsSucralose is neither a color or flavor so Amway is technically and legally correct. However, CSPI also refers to a print advertisement  (pictured right) for Fruit & Vegetables 2GO which states the product “contains no artifical colors, flavors, preservatives or ingredients“. This is clearly wrong, it contains sucralose, which is an artificial ingredient.

So CSPI gets one claim right out of the many they make against Amway. Their letter to Steve Van Andel though, I find extremely ironic, with several pages devoted to educating him about the benefits of phytochemicals, a consumer field Amway and Nutrilite virtually pioneered!

A little more due diligence next time, CSPI.

6 thoughts on “Oh the confusion …. CSPI gets it (mostly) very wrong.”

  1. Nutrilite “whey protein powder, dietary supplement, chocolate flavor” “Contains milk and soy”, 11-4027, is a “Product of Canada” and one of it ingredients, “Red Orange Complex” is trademarked from Italy. No mention is made of the soy being obtained from Monsanto.

  2. I have a question for you Amway people. Do you know where they purchase their soybean seeds? I can’t seem to find anything when I called them. They said it is proprietary information. In addition, I took a tour on their farm, and they stated that all farms that grow their product must be certified. However, the person i spoke to told me one of their products “black cohosh and soy” is not grown on certified land. Can you also confirm if Amway does business with Coca-Cola. I just want to know if they get their seeds from monsanto, which would not make their products organic. Furthermore, even if their soy was not from Monsanto, the cross pollination from their seed may have contaminated Amway crops.

  3. I used to subscribe to CSPI’s Nutrition Action Newsletter, several years ago. I stopped because I found them to be inconsistent. They’d claim one product was good, while, a few issues later, slam another product that was so similar to the one they had just praised. It was weird.
    Once they did a cover story (Sept 1999, I think) saying that all multivitamins were the same, and to save your money and just buy Centrum. I literally laughed out loud. That, along with this current letter to Amway, leads me to believe they are truly, and sadly, given what they market themselves to be, clueless about Nutrilite.
    Hopefully though this process, they will become educated about the Nutrilite difference.

  4. why the sudden interest? maybe the reason is that fruits and vegetables twist tubes are one of the Nutrilite best sellers,they’ve run out of stock few times since launching last year. Amway really hit the spot with that product,it tastes great,it gives you energy after you drink it(I was amazed with energy boost),and most important,they are healthy! but,I think CSPI doesn’t have the chance in this case,(if they ever try to sue Amway),and I think they know it,but they are just trying to spread bad rumour. so I think Amway should respond very fast,and make everything clear about this great product.

  5. Will be interesting to see how this progresses. I’ll assume it will be a “few” months before anything really happens. One question that should be asked is why did the CSPI take so long to attack Amway with this letter when the original twist tubes have been out for quite a few years now. Why the sudden interest?

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