Coca-Cola seeks revision of fortification guideline

In February 2019, I wrote about the introduction of nutritionally fortified artificial sweeteners. Merisant launched a new zero calorie sweetener called Sugarly Sweet exclusively on Amazon in late January 2019, and has also created a brand-new line of artificial sweeteners fortified with vitamins and minerals.1

The fortified sweeteners are sold under the company’s Equal Plus brand, and are available in three versions: vitamin C and zinc;2 vitamins B3, B5 and B12;3 or vitamins C and E.4

The products are marketed as a “good source” of these nutrients, as a single packet provides 10% of the daily recommended value of the added vitamins and minerals. Clearly, this is nothing more than a marketing ploy.

Similarly, The Coca-Cola Co. is now seeking permission to add vitamins to various drinks in its assortment, but make no mistake — adding vitamins and minerals does absolutely nothing to change the detrimental impact these products have on your health, be it artificial sweeteners or sugary beverages.

Coca-Cola wants FDA to ease up on fortification rule

For decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has discouraged “indiscriminate addition of nutrients to foods,” including and especially pertaining to “snack foods such as candies and carbonated beverages.”5

Coca-Cola is now pushing the FDA to ease up on this so-called “jelly bean rule” (so called because companies cannot fortify candy such as jelly beans for the purpose of making a health claim). The reason for this FDA guideline is fairly obvious. It’s there to prevent food and beverage manufacturers from marketing junk food as healthy.

In an October 24, 2018, article6 for FOOD Navigator-USA, editor Elaine Watson reported that Coca-Cola has asked the FDA to update its fortification policy “to reflect changes in consumers’ dietary patterns and innovation in the marketplace.”

According to Coca-Cola, the jelly bean guideline damages the company’s “ability to innovate with new carbonated water, tea and juice beverages.” The primary intent behind the request, Coca-Cola claims, is to fortify sparkling beverages, not to add vitamins to soda, snack foods or beverages with “significant amounts of added sugar.”

Interestingly, Coca-Cola is already marketing Vitaminwater which, as its name implies, is fortified water — with plenty of added sugar. As noted by Marion Nestle in a July Food Politics post:7

“Some Vitamin Waters have as much sugar as a Coke. They have Nutrition Facts labels and are marketed as foods, and look to me to be in violation of the jelly bean rule. The FDA hasn’t done anything about them, even though they are vitamin-enriched sugar water. If you have any idea why not, please tell me.”

Indeed, the only difference between Vitaminwater and the type of beverages Coca-Cola is now asking permission to fortify is carbonation. Carbonated beverages “can be beneficial options in a person’s diet, so it is recommended that FDA recognize that the simple addition of carbonation should not prohibit the sale of a product under the fortification guideline,” Coca-Cola told the FDA.8

The company is also asking the FDA to expand antioxidant claims. At present, antioxidant claims can only be made for substances for which there are established daily values. Coca-Cola would like the agency to expand this rule to include substances that have “substantiated antioxidant activity that do not have an established recommended DV.”

The latest fad: Functional junk food

Candy makers are also trying to weasel more nutrients into candy in an effort to give the sweet stuff an aura of healthiness. Nestle offered several examples of candy makers taking a page out of the snack foods’ marketing book in a June 2018 post.9 Among them:

  • Rainmaker’s chocolate products, which contain nuts and protein as “functional” ingredients “to give consumers an energy boost”10
  • Supertreats, which mimics chocolate using carob powder instead, along with “minimally processed superfood ingredients such as chia seeds and blueberries for a nutritional boost”11
  • Get More Multivitamin Chewing Gum — said to provide 25% of your recommended daily allowance of 10 vitamins after 20 minutes of chewing12

Then there’s vitamin gummy bears — a tantalizing mixture of candy and vitamin supplement marketed to kids and adults alike. As noted by Nestle,13 vitamin gummies have managed to circumvent the FDA’s jelly bean guideline by being marketed as a supplement rather than candy, although it could reasonably be argued to be both. But are gummy vitamins all they’re cracked up to be? In short, no. There are several reasons to avoid them the way you would candy.

Reasons to avoid vitamin gummies

For starters, unless it specifies being made from whole food nutrients, the product probably contains synthetic vitamins and/or minerals, many of which are known to be less effective, and in some cases, may do more harm than good. You’re also getting added sugars, which could easily be tagged as health enemy No. 1. As registered dietitian Jillian Kubala told Popsugar:14

“Added sugar should be kept to a minimum in any healthy diet, and popping a few sugary gummy vitamins per day can add up. In fact, some gummy vitamins can contain nearly one teaspoon of added sugar per two-gummy serving. Some of these also include sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, which can cause digestive upset in some people.”

Other drawbacks and common problems associated with gummy multivitamins include:

Unreliable nutrient content — According to Consumer Lab,15 which conducts independent testing to assess the quality of nutritional products, it’s common for gummy multivitamins to not contain the listed amounts of nutrients:

“Gummies are notoriously difficult to manufacture because it is hard to measure in the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals (some are simply sprayed on a candy base) …

[T]he ingredients in a gummy are more likely to degrade, so manufacturers often put in more than the listed amount — resulting in products with too much of a vitamin, such as folic acid, when first produced and decreasing amounts over the course of their shelf-lives.”

Impurities — Consumer Lab also warns that gummy multivitamins often contain impurities, noting there are consistently “more problems with candy-like vitamins like gummies than with traditional forms, such as tablets and caplets.”16

Artificial flavors, food colors, preservatives and fillers can also cause more harm than good. They’re certainly not required for good health, and many have been linked to behavior problems and other ailments in children.

Overdose risks — The gummies unmistakable resemblance to candy can also easily result in overdosing and toxicity.17 As noted by Kubala:18

“Unlike water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are stored in the body and can cause toxicity if too much of these nutrients are consumed. Certain minerals, such as iron, can be dangerous if consumed in excess as well.”

Beware of phony fruit snacks

Another thoroughly unhealthy snack food marketed as healthy is gummy fruit snacks. Examples include General Mill’s Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Shapes, Gushers and Kellogg’s Fruit Flavored Snacks. While the premise sounds good — surely a fruit substitute must be better than a candy bar? — the reality is, they’re the same.

Whether the primary ingredient is corn syrup or concentrated fruit juice, the result is identical: They contain mostly sugar. And contrary to real fruit, these snacks are also loaded with artificial flavors and dyes. As noted by Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), “[I]f you compare ingredients lists, fruit snacks look much closer to candy — like jelly beans or gummy bears — than fruit.”19

One example cited by CSPI is Gerber Graduates Fruit Strips, said to contain a full serving of fruit per bar. In reality, each bar contains just 1% berries. “The main fruit ingredient is dried apple puree, which should read ‘concentrated fruit sugar,’” CSPI writes.20

Despite lawsuits, faux ‘functional’ junk foods proliferate

In 2015, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Welch Foods for violating the jelly bean rule and making Welch’s Fruit Snacks appear healthier than they actually are. As reported by RegistrarCorp.com:21

“The plaintiffs … took issue with the fact that Welch boasts that its fruit snacks are made with real fruit. The snacks are ‘devoid of the health benefits plaintiffs and other reasonable consumers associate with consuming real fruit,’ the plaintiffs said in their complaint.

Although the first ingredient in many of Welch’s Fruit Snacks are juice from concentrate or fruit purees, the following ingredients are corn syrup, sugar, and corn starch.”

Years earlier, in 2009, CSPI sued Coca-Cola for falsely advertising Vitaminwater as being able to prevent “age-related eye disease” and to promote “pain-free functioning of joints,” “structural integrity of joints and bones,” and “optimal generation and utilization of energy from food.”22,23

Meanwhile, each bottle contains 33 grams of sugar, which CSPI pointed out “do more to promote obesity, diabetes and other health problems than the vitamins in the drinks do to perform the advertised benefits listed on the bottles.”24

After six years of litigation, Coca-Cola finally agreed to change its Vitaminwater label to resolve the dispute, adding the words “with sweeteners” and removing “vitamins + water = all you need.” The company also stopped making health claims relating to metabolic health, immune function and reduction of eye disease.25 As reported by CBS News at the time of the lawsuit in 2010:26

“… Coke seems not to have understood — and most Vitaminwater drinkers certainly don’t understand — that dumping vitamins into sugar water does not make it a health drink … The law on health claims for nutrition and diet supplement products isn’t that complicated. If I can understand it, then the general counsel’s office at Coke sure ought to be able to.

Which makes me suspect these companies were simply calculating that they could make more on revenue from selling these drinks with their false claims than they’d lose when they finally got caught.”

Indeed, and here we are again. Coca-Cola now wants more leeway to fool more customers about more of its products. Aside from paying CSPI’s legal fees, Coca-Cola got away with falsely advertising Vitaminwater for years, and in the end just had to make a few minor tweaks to the label. Most likely, it was well worth breaking the rules, and there’s nothing to suggest Coca-Cola wouldn’t do it again given half a chance.

Don’t fall for functional junk food claims

When it comes right down to it, processed foods and beverages will never be able to compete with real food and pure water, and as a general rule, if a product comes with heavy advertising, you can be pretty certain it’s not a healthy choice.

Processed foods are designed to be eaten quickly, on-the-go, and often in large, addictive quantities. In eating these foods you may satisfy a brief craving, but you will not have received the vitamins and minerals, the live enzymes and micronutrients, the healthy fats or high-quality protein that your body needs to function, let alone thrive.

Cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes — all modern plagues that have a dietary component — are spreading and increasing in occurrence and severity with each passing year. The health statistics speak for themselves, and the truth these statistics are telling is that so-called “functional” foods don’t work.

The idea that candy, junk food and processed snacks can be healthy simply by adding a few synthetic nutrients is a pipedream. Your eyes may be fooled by label claims, but your body will know the difference.

Again and again, studies show processed foods and sweetened beverages promote chronic disease and shorten life span. Fortification changes nothing. It’s just a marketing ploy that increases sales, so don’t be fooled.

If you really want to eat healthy, it’s time to delegate at least 90% of your food budget to real, whole (ideally organic) foods — fruits and vegetables, grass fed meat, healthy fats, nuts and seeds and plenty of pure filtered water.

If you want flavor, a squirt of lemon or lime juice is a simple addition that won’t detract from the health benefits of the water. For a step-by-step guide to make this a reality in your own life, simply follow the advice in my optimized nutrition plan.

Birth rate reaches record low as premature deliveries rise

The question of whether to start a family or not is one that weighs on the minds of many people. However, like all big decisions there is a range from those who have been positive they wanted children from the time they were teens to those who question whether following in their parents’ footsteps is the right decision for them.

You may have read stories of infertile men and women who are characterized as “desperate for children,”1 when in fact they are experiencing what generations before thought was a normal and natural desire.

In other words, while many agree human beings are programmed to desire sex,2 not all believe sex must lead to procreation. However, without children, the human race will slowly die out and the Earth will be taken over by plants and animals that are continuing in nature’s plan of procreation.

Having children is not a decision to be made lightly. If the conclusions of the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study3 on birth rates is to be believed, it appears there are more people purposefully deciding to live their lives without the pitter patter of little feet.

Low birth rate means generation may not replace itself

One of the goals of the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System4 is to track vital events, including births, deaths, marriages, divorces and fetal deaths. Working with state partners, the NVSS analyzes the data and publishes it electronically.5

In their most recent analysis, they provide provisional data for 2018 on the number of births and preterm births, as well as prenatal care, cesarean delivery and low birth weight births. According to the CDC,6 the data is based on 99.73% of recorded births for 2018. So, while the study is provisional, the majority of records have been received.

The researchers compared the data7 against 2017 and previous years, finding significant differences. In comparison to 2017, the researchers found the number of births in 2018 was down 2% in total, which is the fourth year the total number of births declined, and the lowest number of births recorded since 1986.

According to the report the general fertility rate (GFR) was 59.0 births per 1,000 women from 15 to 44 years.8 There are three commonly used indicators when researchers discuss birth rate and fertility.9

The GFR is the annual rate women are presently having children, the completed fertility is the number of children they ultimately have and the total fertility rate (TFR) is the hypothetical number they might have based on present fertility patterns. For the first time in two decades, the GFR and the TFR indicate fertility has hit a record low.10

A TFR of 2.1 children per woman of childbearing age is called replacement level fertility as it represents the average number of children needed to sustain a population and replace a generation.11 According to the CDC report the TFR in 2018 was 1,728 births per 1,000 women, which fell 2% from the rate in 2017.12

The news came as a surprise to those who track these trends as they expected the economic growth of the past eight years would have sparked stabilization or even a rise in the number of babies born in 2018.13

Fewer babies and more premature births

Women from 20 to 24 years had a birth rate of 67.9 births per 1,000 women, down 4% since 2017, another record low. Since 2007, the rate for this age group has also declined an average of 4% each year. The number in the following two age brackets also declined, 3% in those 25 to 29 and 1% in those 30 to 34 years.14

However, the provisional data for women 35 to 39 and 40 to 44 did rise between 2017 and 2018. In general, the CDC found the rate from 40 to 44 years has continued to increase an average of 3% each year since 1982.15

The total number of women receiving first trimester prenatal care remained relatively stable from 77.5% in 2018 and 77.3 percent in 2017. The difference between cesarean deliveries from 2018 to 2017 varied only by 0.1%. However, the preterm birth rate rose for the fourth year in a row, having risen 5% since 2014.16

The overall rise was found to be an increase in late preterm birth, delivered 34 to 36 weeks gestation, while early preterm — those born before 34 weeks gestation — declined. The CDC data also identified the number of births by state. California had the highest number of births in 2018, followed closely by Texas, which also had the lowest percentage of first trimester prenatal care.17

Fewer teen births may be difficult to explain

According to the World Health Organization,18 there are approximately 16 million girls from 15 to 19 years and 2.5 million under 16 years who have children every year in developing countries. Complications related to pregnancy and birth are the leading cause of death for girls 15 to 19 years old globally.

But in the U.S., according to the CDC report, the birth rate for American teens in 2018 had also fallen 7% from 2017, which represented another record low for this age group. The report found the birth rate in teens has dropped nearly 8% each year since 2007, 60% since 2007 and 72% since 1991.19

If you look at the number of teens who are having sex, the Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention may show some light on one reason teen pregnancy rates are slipping.20 The center reports data from 2015 showed 41% of high school students reported sexual intercourse and 30% reported being sexually active; 46% of high school seniors were sexually active and 21% who had intercourse in the past three months also consumed alcohol or drugs beforehand.

But, compared to numbers in 1991, when statistic collection on teen sexual behavior began, those numbers have fallen quite a bit. Using data from the Guttmacher Institute and the CDC,21,22,23 the center reports:24

  • Between 1991 and 2015 the number teens who ever had sex declined from 59% to 41%
  • The percent of adolescents having sex at earlier ages decreased since 1988
  • Reported contraceptive use has increased since the 1990s
  • Many adolescents are reporting engaging in sexual behaviors other than vaginal sex

As suggested in the report, these factors together certainly may be contributing to lower teen pregnancy and birth rates.

The center also found 59% of sexually active students used a condom. However, condom use was higher in ninth graders than it was in high school seniors. Only 19% used birth control pills and 1.6% used an IUD or implant to prevent pregnancy.25

According to the CDC,26 teen births may also be related to the number of teens who use the least effective types of birth control. The CDC says condoms and birth control pills are less effective for preventing pregnancy when they are not used consistently or correctly.

In combination with the 21% of teens under the influence drugs27 and alcohol28 prior to sex, birth control methods may not be used correctly, or at all. In other words, while there likely is some overlap, these statistics indicate there is a percentage of sexually active high school students who are not using birth control in one of the most fertile times of their lives — which could point to other contributing factors for low fertility rates that have nothing to do with sexual activity.

Is it environmental toxins, vitamin D or economics?

Although many point to a correlation between declining birth rates and the financial stability of people in their 20s and 30s following the 2008 economic crash as a reason for delaying childbearing,29,30 declining fertility may also be significantly affected by low vitamin D levels and rising levels of environmental toxins.

Researchers from other developed countries have also found a decline in birth rate. In Canada,31 the TFR in 2017 was 1,496.1 births per 1,000 people from 1,581.8 in 2014. In England and Wales32 the rate in 2017 declined for five straight years from 1.94 in 2012 to 1.76 in 2017.

As birth rates are declining, other factors affecting fertility are also changing, such as the rising amounts of environmental toxins being dumped in the water and food supply and falling levels of vitamin D

In an effort to stem exposure to growing children, the American Academy of Pediatrics33 has asked parents to limit their children’s exposure to dangerous plastic chemicals from food packaging and chemical food additives, warning these can damage children’s health for years. In their policy statement they write:34

“Today, more than 10,000 chemicals are allowed to be added to food and food contact materials in the United States, either directly or indirectly, under the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) (public law number 85-929).

Many of these were grandfathered in for use by the federal government before the 1958 amendment, and an estimated 1,000 chemicals are used under a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designation process without US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.”

Nearly 80% of the 4,000 additives intentionally added to food lack enough information to determine how much could be safely eaten and only 6.7% had reproductive toxicology data.35 In other words, many of the additives intentionally put into the food supply don’t have enough information about how they affect the reproductive capacity of the children and adults ingesting them.

Additionally, more young teens and millennials in prime reproductive years are spending nearly 90% of their time indoors.36 Sensible sun exposure triggers the production of vitamin D in your body, which is linked to the prevention of a number of health conditions, including premature birth.37,38,39

Low vitamin D levels associated with premature birth

Premature birth increases the risk of your child having more health problems, including long-term health problems that can affect them their whole lives. According to the March of Dimes,40 10% of children are born prematurely in the U.S. each year.

Health problems associated with premature birth include an increased risk of infection, retinopathy of prematurity leading to loss of vision, necrotizing enterocolitis (destruction of the bowels by bacteria), respiratory distress syndrome and intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain).41

Scientific evidence supports the link between low vitamin D levels in the mother and the increased risk for preterm premature birth.42,43,44,45,46 In one study47 involving 1,064 women, researchers analyzed specific vitamin D levels and found women with levels of 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or higher had a 62% reduced risk compared to those who had levels below 20 ng/mL.

Even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors, the relationship remained.48 However, the implication of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy goes even further. Pregnancy is a time of great physiological changes for the woman and her developing baby that has lifelong implications for both.

Vitamin D has a significant effect on these processes including preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and asthma in the child.49 Monitoring vitamin D levels should be a standard of care during pregnancy, but testing is not yet widespread.

You can request a vitamin D blood test from your health care provider or enroll in GrassrootsHealth’s Protect Our Children NOW! Project,50 which seeks to resolve vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women and children and raise global awareness about the health risks associated with vitamin D deficiency.

Protect your fertility and child’s future

Whether or not you decide to have children should be something you have the right to decide. You may improve your chances of protecting your fertility and the health of your future family by taking steps to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins and optimize your vitamin D levels. Discover several strategies that could reap big rewards over time in my articles:

Amazon admits it sold fake supplements

Amazon was born in 1994, when hedge fund executive Jeff Bezos incorporated the company and began direct-selling books online with a plan to create technology that would make it simple for consumers to make their purchases.

His fairy tale, rags-to-riches story of his rise to wealth and fame and the company’s launch toward a near trillion-dollar value is a story that’s been chronicled nicely by Encyclopedia Britannica,1 which notes that the company — which Bezos promoted with a “Get Big Fast” slogan — did not post real profits until 2001.

Part of the story is that Bezos realized way back then that he needed a better plan to help his company meet his growth goals — thus spurring the decision to broaden Amazon’s scope in two ways: first, by introducing an e-reader he called Kindle; and second, by opening Amazon’s doors to third-party sellers.

Today, Kindle, which not only allows consumers to download millions of books and movies, but to publish their own work online through Kindle e-publishing, and third-party sellers are the pillars of Amazon’s structure, helping Bezos to be crowned the richest person in the world in 2017, with a net worth of $105.1 billion.2

To illustrate just how much those third-party sellers mean to Amazon, statista.com reports that in the second quarter of 2019, those sellers’ products represented 54 percent of Amazon’s paid units.3

Unfortunately, those third-party sellers, which have taken over Amazon’s platform by selling every imaginable type of product and service, all with a click of a button — the very technology Bezos envisioned from the start — are also a breeding ground for fraudsters who pose as brand name sellers, but actually sell knock-off products. Even worse, some of these fakes could cause real harm to consumers, especially when it comes to foods, drugs, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Is it real or a knock off?

Amazon runs an annual sale they’ve dubbed Prime Day, which ran July 15 and 16, 2019, for the U.S. 4 On the second evening, as reported by Wired, Anne-Marie Bressler received an automated email from Amazon informing her that one of the nutritional supplements she’d ordered two weeks earlier were likely counterfeit.5

The email recommended she stop using it and dispose of the item. It also said she would be issued a refund for the product. Although Amazon confirmed it sent the email, the company declined to identify the number of people who had been impacted by this knock-off. The supplement is sold by Procter & Gamble, whose spokesperson said in an email:6

“We are aware that some counterfeit Align product was sold on Amazon via third parties. Amazon has confirmed they have stopped third party sales of the Align products in question and Amazon is only selling Align product received directly from P&G manufacturing facilities.”

In their statement, Amazon acknowledged a past problem with counterfeiters, saying:7

“We investigate every claim of potential counterfeit thoroughly, and often in partnership with brands, and in the rare instance where a bad actor gets through, we take swift action, including removing the item for sale, permanently banning bad actors, pursuing legal action, and working with law enforcement when appropriate. We have taken these actions against the bad actors in question and proactively notified and refunded customers.”

A 2016 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development8 pegged the counterfeit market at $461 billion a year in 2013. By 2016 that number had skyrocketed to $509 billion9 — two and a half times what it was just eight years earlier in 2008, at $200 billion a year.

What’s worse, counterfeiters are infiltrating a wide range of products and name brands, from high fashion to toys to car parts, cosmetics, medical supplies and, as Amazon found, pharmaceutical products, including supplements.10,11

The underlying problem is the fakes are frequently low quality12 and may lead to injury and health concerns, as they did for Heather Oberdorf who was blinded in one eye when a retractable dog leash she purchased from a third-party vendor snapped, hitting her in the face.13

Third party seller products may not be safe

Although the supplement industry is fully regulated under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA),14 those who are selling knock-off products are not. Yahoo! Finance reported third party sales have jumped from 31% of Amazon sales to 58% in the past 10 years,15 and revenue from these sales grew 20% in the last quarter.16

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,17 they are responsible to take action “against any adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.”

Steve Mister, from the Council for Responsible Nutrition, hopes this incident of counterfeit online products will be a wake-up call.18 However, in an interview with NutraIngredients, he expressed concern about how news outlets have reported the issue, saying:19

“It tries to pull in the notion that the products are not pre-tested by the FDA before they go on the market. That’s not the issue at all. You could have tested P&G’s Align Probiotics for weeks and found out they were exactly what they were portrayed to be on the label and be of high quality. But if someone comes along with a counterfeit, that evades the whole system, and no amount of pre-testing will address that issue.”

It isn’t only the supplement industry taking a hit from counterfeit products. Counterfeit medications have also become a serious problem, leading the FDA20 to publish a warning in 2013 that purchasing drugs from new or unknown suppliers may create an unnecessary risk for patients, as even cancer medications are being distributed containing no active ingredients.

Amazon has an enormous influence on the market

The Trust Transparency Center works closely with manufacturers in the dietary supplement and wellness market. Last year they reported on Amazon’s influence in the industry, quoting a study from Slice Intelligence (now Rakuten Intelligence)21 indicating Amazon’s market share in the vitamin and supplement category outpaced all their other e-commerce categories.22

The report showed sales grew 40% in 2016 and in 2017 accounted for 77% of all vitamin and supplement sales made online. The two biggest brick and mortar retailers, GNC and Vitamin Shoppe, only garnered 2.3% of the total e-commerce market in that category.23

Courts disagree over liability for third party sellers

Following Oberdorf’s injury, she filed a lawsuit in 2016. As reported in Reuters, product liability is usually governed by state law.24 Before the most recent ruling in her case, several other courts, including two federal appeals courts, had ruled Amazon would not be held liable for third-party vendors.

However, the new ruling from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pennsylvania, which is where Oberdorf lives, reversed the lower court decisions and finds Amazon can be held liable for a third-party vendor sales.

The court’s decision was made in part since the Amazon business model creates more than a third-party selling space and essentially enables vendors to conceal themselves from the customer, leaving customers with no direct recourse to the vendor, Reuters said.25

Additionally, the court found the decision would not apply to other online marketplaces since Amazon has created a different platform by providing services from shipping to payment. The court wrote:26

“Amazon’s involvement in transactions extends beyond a mere editorial function; it plays a large role in the actual sales process. This includes receiving customer shipping information, processing customer payments, relaying funds and information to third-party vendors, and collecting the fees it charges for providing these services.”

Companies like Amazon have relied on protection from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, shielding them from liability for what others post on their site, which states:27,28 “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Retail sales not an Amazon profit machine

Although Amazon has garnered 77% of the supplement market, their retail sales have not been a profit machine. According to CNBC,29 Amazon reported a record profit in 2018 after minimal returns until 2016.

Online sales have not been profitable for Amazon in the past. The company was briefly valued at $1 trillion in 2018 after their net income tripled from 2017 to 2018, rising from $3.03 billion to $10.7 billion.30

The majority of their money is made through cloud services and digital advertising which Bezos initially claimed — Amazon would be a technology company.31 Toward that end, in 2002 the company added Amazon Web Services to their stable of products, a platform on which many large companies also run, such as Netflix.

However, while retail sales of products they purchase from manufacturers does not offer the company significant markup, the sales from third-party vendors means Amazon doesn’t purchase the products but only provides the platform. As Krystal Hu from Yahoo! Finance describes in her video interview:32

“The retail business has not been profitable for them for a while. Part of the reason is they are the retailer itself and it is a very thin margin business, especially as they are providing all the two-day shipping services.

But, for third party sellers they offer a lot of services and they charge a service fee for the ads and the marketing stuff they sell them and that’s a very thick margin business. That’s the area they are looking to grow. If they want to make the retail part more profitable, part of the solution is to grow the third-party business.”

Project Zero places responsibility on merchants, not Amazon

The sale of counterfeit goods has been a known problem for Amazon. In late February 2019, the company announced the initiation of Project Zero.33 The initiative was designed to reduce the number of counterfeit products by allowing some brands to directly remove counterfeit listings themselves, without having to go through a complaint process and wait on Amazon to do it.

In their announcement, Amazon34 touted Project Zero as a combination of “advanced technology, machine learning and innovation” to best detect counterfeit. In the past, brands reported a potential counterfeit to Amazon, which would then investigate and take action.

With this new tool, the brand has the ability to control and remove these products. In addition, Amazon is using product serialization, a unique code for units manufactured for sale on Amazon. These may then be scanned and verified to authenticate the product, helping to detect counterfeiting before it reaches the customer.

Marketplace Pulse35 reports there are 2.5 million sellers on Amazon worldwide. Of those, 25,000 made $1 million in sales and 200,000 have made $100,000 in sales. Many of these are pedaling wholesale items they buy from other suppliers and mark up for sale on Amazon.

Project Zero has been part of a wider effort, including a lawsuit in 2016 against the number of sellers who allegedly listed counterfeit products and an overhaul of its brand registry program.36

Nutrient deficiencies are more common than you might think

This most recent debacle may provide a platform for those who would like the pharmaceutical companies to take over the manufacture and sales of supplements. In this fascinating video with Dr. Andrew Saul, we discuss some of the issues surrounding the need for adequate supplementation and fact-checking.

As we’ve seen in the past, counterfeiters have infiltrated medications from Big Pharma as well, so there is no reason to believe production of synthetic vitamins and supplements will be safer, and they will likely not be healthy. The FDA regulates supplements; now it’s important to protect your health by ensuring the supplements you purchase contain what’s on the label.

  • Purchase from a trusted and reputable source. If the cost of your supplement is significantly lower than those sold by competitors, it could be you’re purchasing a counterfeit product. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Look for the USP or Consumer Lab testing label on the product, indicating an independent lab tested the product and found the right ingredients, the right strength and no contamination.
  • Seek out natural vitamins and not those created in a lab. Avoid vitamins identified with an L- or dl- at the beginning, such as dl-alpha-tocopherol; nonsynthetic vitamins may use a “d-” such as d-alpha-tocopherol
  • Purchase vitamins produced without soy additives and that are GMO-free

Study Finds Infants of Unvaccinated Moms Fared Better Compared To Vaccinated Ones

Public health officials and doctors, ever more insistent that pregnant women get flu shots, are frustrated that fewer than four in ten American moms-to-be avail themselves of the recommendation. Policy-makers’ disappointment stems not just from their zeal to achieve the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80% coverage of pregnant women but also from their recognition that women who go along with vaccine recommendations during pregnancy are more acquiescent about vaccinating their newborn infants as well.

Yet maternal worries about vaccine-related harm to the fetus are widespread and operate as a principal barrier to higher pregnancy vaccine uptake. Envisioning a day when “even more vaccines” will be added to the maternal vaccine schedule, researchers are studying how to improve uptake and design more persuasive “communication interventions.” Their messaging generally emphasizes a twofold rationale for prenatal flu shots. The first and primary stated aim is to prevent influenza in mothers and babies—but researchers also assert that by preventing such infections, they may be able to prevent unwanted fetal outcomes thought to be linked to influenza infection during pregnancy.

research team out of South Africa has just published a paper examining the second rationale, comparing four outcomes—fetal death, low birth weight, small for gestational age birth and preterm birth—for infants whose mothers received flu shots or a placebo. In their surprisingly frank conclusions, not only do the researchers report that influenza vaccination during pregnancy was ineffective in lowering risk for the four outcomes, but—ever so cautiously—they also note that the vaccinated infants fared worse.

The study

The 2011–2012 South Africa study was one of three large double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials of influenza vaccination during pregnancy funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). As originally described in 2014 in the New England Journal of Medicine, over 2,000 mothers received either trivalent inactivated influenza vaccines or placebo between 20 and 36 weeks of pregnancy—in other words, in their second or third (but not first) trimester of pregnancy. (In the U.S., which encourages flu shots during any trimester of pregnancy, studies have identified a heightened risk of autism in the children of women vaccinated during the first trimester.) The researchers followed up on fetal outcomes when the infants reached 24 weeks of age.

Of note, the study used an inert saline placebo. This is unusual in the context of vaccine clinical trials, which nearly always compare one group that receives the vaccine of interest against another group that receives a different vaccine (called an “active comparator”). The use of active comparators can “increase the occurrence of harms in the comparator groups and thereby [mask] harms caused by the…vaccines” being studied. In contrast, an inert placebo enhances the likelihood of detecting differences between groups, if any are present.

Overall, the investigators found “no significant vaccine efficacy” with respect to any of the fetal outcomes. Unexpectedly (to the researchers), they also found that the average gestational age at birth was lower in the vaccinated versus placebo group—a statistically significant result indicative of a greater risk of preterm birth. Although most of the study’s other findings did not attain statistical significance, the pattern of results showed, in another writer’s words, tendencies that were “not reassuring.” Across all analyses, the percentages and rates of fetal death, preterm birth, low birth weight and small for gestational age birth were higher in the vaccine group than in the placebo group. Couching their conclusions with caveats, the authors explain:

[W]e found a slight, though non-significant decrease in the birth weight of infants in the vaccinated group…as well as a non-significant increase in fetal deaths among [influenza]-vaccinated mothers. […] We point this out only as a cautionary word and suggest this observation be explored carefully in larger studies of vaccine safety data bases.

Weak, inconsistent and biased evidence

In 2017, researchers who carried out a systematic review found that “comparative studies of adverse birth outcomes following maternal influenza disease are limited in quantity and have produced inconsistent findings.” In a 2019 paper, an Italian researcher agrees, arguing that it is inappropriate to recommend across-the-board influenza vaccination of all pregnant women in the absence of “strong and consistent” randomized clinical trial evidence—particularly if one also acknowledges that current evidence often exhibits bias. Making specific reference to the South Africa clinical trial, the author notes that the trial “was funded by BMGF and by public sponsors, with the principal investigator in financial relationships with the vaccine producer, and two authors with other influenza vaccine producers.”

The author describes other results from the South Africa trial that, while again not attaining statistical significance, “were not in the expected/hoped direction.” For example, maternal hospitalizations for infections were “numerically higher” in the vaccinated group, as were severe neonatal infections. Overall, the trial produced only “18 less influenza illnesses in vaccinated mothers and their children, to be weighted…against 9 more maternal hospitalization for any infection and 6 more neonatal hospitalization due to sepsis within 28 days of birth.”

In addition to the South Africa trial, the Italian author mentions several other randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in low-income countries that compared influenza vaccination during pregnancy against meningococcal or pneumococcal vaccination; even with an active comparator, the author suggests that these trials [hyperlinks added] do not support influenza vaccination during pregnancy:

The first and larger trial substantially disregarded an alarming excess of infant deaths and serious “presumed/neonatal infections” in the influenza vaccine group. Even in the other small RCT the fetal plus infant deaths were nonsignificantly higher in the influenza vaccine group. In a last large trial the tendency for miscarriage, stillbirth, congenital defects, and infant deaths at 0-6 months were not in favour of the vaccine group. These countries are not comparable to high-income ones, but one could expect that their poverty and demographic conditions would magnify the benefits of influenza vaccination, not the opposite.

2013 study that evaluated adverse pregnancy outcomes following influenza vaccination of pregnant women found that “low-risk” women (that is, women without medical complications or co-morbidity) who received the vaccine during the 2009–2011 influenza seasons had an increase in a composite measure of adverse outcomes (miscarriage, fetal demise, preterm birth and neonatal demise) compared to unvaccinated pregnant women—“even after adjusting for confounding factors.” Reluctant to accept the implications of their findings, the authors stated, “We do not believe that influenza vaccination causes adverse pregnancy outcomes in low-risk women; instead our findings likely represent the result of selection bias and residual confounding.”

The same kind of avoidance was apparent in a study that investigated risks for preterm delivery and birth defects following influenza vaccination in three consecutive seasons beginning in 2011. Although the researchers found that women in the vaccinated group had a shorter gestational duration and their infants had an elevated risk of a rare abdominal wall defect called omphalocele, the investigators concluded that their results were “generally reassuring” and that “[t]he few risks that were observed are compatible with chance.”

A questionable policy

Researchers have speculated that influenza infection during pregnancy could be associated with adverse birth outcomes due to “mechanisms such as maternal fever and inflammation,” and they note that “[i]mmunological responses, such as elevated pro-inflammatory cytokine levels…are recognised as an important pathway to preterm birth.” What they generally do not acknowledge is that prenatal vaccination also introduces immune activation risks—and these risks remain scandalously understudied. Instead of bemoaning pregnant women’s “suboptimal” flu shot uptake—or dismissing the risks to a developing fetus from vaccinating the mother during pregnancy as “theoretical”—researchers and policy-makers should be putting their poorly supported pregnancy vaccination recommendations on hold. And members of the public should remember that no vaccines have ever been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “specifically for use during pregnancy to protect the infant.”


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And We Know VIDEO 8-6-19… “SerialBrain2: Dan Coats, The King Elijah Party and The Very Big Win You May Have Missed”

This AWK video covers the SB2 article, Dan Coats, The King Elijah Party and The Very Big Win You May Have Missed, which I posted here. This is a fairly long video (45 min.), but I found it helpful to understanding SB2’s post.

[Kp note: although these decodes can be very, very deep, I feel each of them can encourage learning to use one’s own discernment and find what “rings the Inner Bell”. Personally, I find it useful to both read the SB2 posts and view the And We Know videos (Bitchute channel)… I find I get more complete data input that way.]
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colin Powell: https://bit.ly/2KtMJNB
Colin Powell admits intel error: https://bit.ly/2OHlK6s

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