Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Why I don't buy Megafood and why you should avoid them, too

Do you ever get tired of going over company after company in an industry, all with the typical excuses and little defensive explanations that don't stand up under scrutiny?

I've been doing this for years, but it wasn't until I discovered the mind boggling continued loyalty to Standard Process that I decided to go somewhat public about my findings.

Here is another company, once again inspired by a newly pregnant mom desperately trying to make sense of a convoluted, unethical, and unregulated industry. She asked about the brand megafood. I took a quick look at their prenatal and immediately knew what I was looking at, but as with Standard Process, I decided to be thorough and to reserve judgment for as long as possible.

Take a look at the megafood prenatal label. For those who are new to this process of investigating supplement companies, I'll try to explain. The label is missing a lot. BUT. The dosages are standardized to the RDA. The implication of the wording on the website and the advertisements on the actual product labels imply that you are about to consume a whole foods product. You're given the idea that it's all natural, derived straight from healthy food! The ingredient label is suspiciously devoid of details that most other companies readily provide, and the ingredients are all standardized, meaning they are all listed on the label with specific dosages. This is a difficult thing to do when the product is truly derived or cultured with whole foods. The way these companies overcome the issue of low dose extraction is by adding additional vitamins and minerals to their formula.

So we have a company claiming that they offer a superior, all natural, whole foods-based product, but somehow the variation of nature perfectly aligns onto a label for standard labeling purposes.

Did you catch that? If a product is completely natural and derived from foods, every single bottle would be different. But, their labels are standardized.

This means they are adding vitamins and minerals to their products. Now, this is a very common step for companies who culture their derived nutrients on yeast or soy. New Chapter is another company that does this as a quick example. Some of you might recall a scandal a little while ago about Green Pastures and their cod liver oil. They were exposed and boycotted for the same reason. Despite claiming their oils were all natural, they were still refining their product and adding extra vitamins during manufacturing to have standardized dosages.

What is the problem? I'll skip over the many arguments for or against this process of adding more vitamins and minerals to a product to focus on the main concern: what is the form and quality of the added ingredient? 

In other words, are they adding a cheap, often toxic form of the vitamin or mineral? When they list zinc, is it something such as zinc oxide, which has low bioavailability in the body and should really never be consumed? Or are they spending more time and money to secure higher quality ingredients? We don't know. Because megafood does not disclose the chemical forms of their vitamins and minerals.

Unfortunately, it's hard to give any benefit of the doubt to a vitamin company making strong claims about being all natural and having superior nutrition while refusing to disclose the most basic information on their labels. Experience has taught me that every single time I come across a company doing this, they are using cheaper ingredients. It's hard not to reasonably conclude this, since if they were intentionally sourcing healthier, safer, and higher quality ingredients, they would proudly list this all over their labels and website.

Instead, I was taken on a fun trip with a representative over the last few days that involved logical fallacies and trying to explain away very basic industry practices. It was such a prolonged and unproductive conversation that I can't even realistically share the entire conversation here.

As a consumer, you would expect an ethical, honest, and high quality "natural" company to simply tell you what they are using, right? Almost every single other company out there does this automatically. Take a look at a totally cheap junk prenatal brand off the Target shelf to see what I mean. I wouldn't feed this to anyone. But, they still tell me what's in it upfront and openly! Megafood won't do that. Even if you ask.

Things started off as normal as you'd hope for when you have already been through this song and dance with several other so-called natural companies. I messaged them to ask what they use. At that moment, I could've received a simple list in response.

I later received an extremely long, overdone description of their culturing process, which is a standard industry practice that several other companies use. It is not unique, and I didn't need the 101 lesson. It didn't answer my questions fully, but it had clues that started to confirm my concerns. For example, the person clearly explained that after they "cold mill" their oranges, they add more vitamin C to the tank of goop. That is a big red flag that they are enriching their formula, and it confirmed that I needed to know what they were using to standardize their labels. So although the person word vomited to avoid answering my simple question, I was starting to get a picture of the situation already.

But still, I persisted. I asked again. Will Megafood simply tell me the basic information that almost every single company out there readily provides on the label for consumers?

And then things started to really veer away from simple evasion into the whacky world of unregulated, unethically manufactured vaccin---I mean, vitamins. Vitamins. Megafood said they don't have such a thing. They also said that their products are not held to the confines of science as we know it on this planet. (For those still drinking their coffee: nutrients in food still have chemical names!)

Things get weirder when the person starts to think the "data sheet" is a real piece of paper that will somehow be handed to me through the screen. Except, the person can't do that b/c it would hurt Mother Nature. The first time this excuse is used on me, I was taken aback and couldn't help thinking the person had a comprehension problem. The excuse of them being too green to give me basic information was used repeatedly, and later on seemed to be a clear technique, as if the person thought I would be proud of a green company and accept it as a reason they couldn't spit out an answer for me.

The person is allegedly misunderstanding the information I'm requesting! The most basic of information that almost every single other company automatically provides on the bottles of what they are selling. They have a youtube video. They have live cams into their factory. They discuss their typical process of culturing on yeast. They just won't tell me what in the world is in their all natural vitamins!

Since apparently companies that are transparent, honest, and natural can't just provide a basic answer to a basic question, I have to go on another prolonged waste of time with this person. (For the record, I also attempted to use their web contact form and didn't receive a response during any of this. I do NOT call on purpose so that everything is documented. It's happened before that reps will say whatever they want on the phone.) The remaining conversation is hilarious as much as it is deeply troubling, but it's so long that I don't find it reasonable to place it into a blog post. The tone changed dramatically, which led some friends to believe a "higher up" might have traded places to finish the process of refusing to answer my question. The level of "mansplaining" and "scientific garbling" increased exponentially. After going back and forth about the benefits, I decided to post the screenshots as an album here:

Although I'd love to disseminate the logical fallacies and techniques used in the messages for my other pet project (disordered personalities/psychological games), I'll keep to the point here.

I do not buy Megafood products. And I hope you avoid them, too. Take your hard earned money and your natural-consumer buying power and please go spend that money and use that power on another company. One that has zero issue listing the chemical forms of their vitamins on the label. One that can politely and efficiently answer your questions when you contact them. One that doesn't play mind games or talk down to female consumers as if we don't have valid questions or a grasp of how the industry works.

Vitamins are a massive, profitable industry with very little regulation or accountability. Don't fall for the gimmicks, buzzwords, and feminine font or soothing colours from these companies. Go to the label. Read it. You have a right to understand what is on the label. You have a right to know what you are placing into your body and your children's bodies. If a company can't provide the most basic of information, stay away from them. They've told you all you need to know.

It appears others have discovered misleading or concerning information about Megafoods, which is made by FoodState.

This article here discusses some issues with Megafoods:

"In fact, if you delve deep into this companies website, which you wouldn’t be able to do if you were shopping at the health food store, you will discover this very honest statement from their medical director:
“… regardless of whether the supplement is “whole food” or “food based”, a USP vitamin or mineral will be part of the process. From my perspective as a Naturopathic Doctor, that’s a good thing. This assures a standardized form of a nutrient, and guaranteed potency… What makes a whole food vitamin or mineral unique is that it is actually delivered in a whole food. What does that mean? As an example…our whole food vitamins and minerals…are made with whole foods to provide vitamins and minerals that are easy-to-digest and gentle on the body, even when taken on an empty stomach. Right on the label you will see that Vitamin C is delivered inwhole oranges, Folate is delivered in broccoli…”
Did you catch that?  They are telling you outright that this “whole food” multivitamin takes synthetically produced, standardized USP vitamins, like those they have been telling you to avoid like the plague” and deliver them in a whole food base."

This article here discusses how the company was misleading people about vitamin D, and how they lack any studies/trials/proof about their claims:

"They say that their vitamin d3 is from S. cerevisiae, and technically it is- however, they actually take regular old vitamin d made from sheep lanolin that anyone can buy in stores, and they 'feed' this vitamin d3 to the yeast in order to 'Biotransform' the vitamin d3..."Unfortunately, the truth is that they admit to having done NO bioavailability studies and have done no studies to see if Vitamin D Levels in the blood are actually raised when humans ingest their vitamin d3. So, in fact the company is outright lying saying that THEIR vitamin d3 is an effective bioavailable form of vitamin d!!"

More recently and more illuminating is this public news release announcing a new Vice President of Regulatory affairs. This just happened in September. It's very interesting to read the statement and see between the lines in the context of their ongoing issues. Here are some snippets:

"Sara joins FoodState from New Chapter of Brattleboro, Vermont, where she was the Senior Director of Sustainability. Prior to her twelve years at New Chapter..." (New Chapter, now owned by P&G, has a similar production process using soy instead of yeast.)

She will ensure that all actions by FoodState live up to the company's high standards of ecological stewardship, from ingredient supply chain transparency and packaging to the company's efforts to improve lives and inspire others."