Going from Good to Great
“There was a time when the word “natural” had a completely different understanding than it has today.”
When you examine the basics, life is not complicated: we are born, we live and at the end we die. It is the specifics in-between, how we react, that creates the complications. The title of today’s newsletter was inspired by the book Good to Great by Jim Collins—for those in business I would strongly suggest this read as it clearly shows how simple changes can produce profound results. As a society we are happy when things are good but moments when things turn great are even more precious.
If we think about life, it is 95% maintenance by repeating the same things over and over again, while the remaining 5% is what is created new. We have things that are comfortable like a pair of soft leather shoes; in these shoes you can walk for miles without discomfort and they last much longer when we devote the time to preserve the leather. This same scenario can be applied to relationships: at courtship stage your loved one takes precedence in your thoughts, the affections are contagious little hugs, kisses throughout the day and flowers for no reason. Fast forward 20 years of marriage and kids: how are things looking in the creative department, what was done to preserve what you had in the beginning?
Remaining healthy is just the same; aging without preventive intervention means your state of health will be subject to deterioration because nothing was done maintenance wise in a creative manner—I call it premature aging. Today preventing premature aging is more challenging than it was in the 60’s simply because we abandoned our original roots. We believed the lies that we could not feed the world unless we adopted genetically modified organisms (GMO). The promise was given that this new form of GMO farming would change the world, and it did: our daily food is chemically laden to create transgenic organisms that have been modified at the genomic level by using DNA from a different organism. These changes do not remain only in the plants once consumed they can alter our genetic structure to adapt the body to accept hormones, pesticide, herbicides and antibiotics as real food. It was not always this way so why was this allowed? Where was the government oversight to hold manufacturers responsible for what they were producing?
Let me explain from the perspective of the natural health industry as a beautiful healthy organic orange tree. There was a time when the word “natural” had a completely different understanding than it has today. Back in the days health stores smelled different and looked different—they were meant to, because of their vigilance to stand apart from all things deemed unnatural. Remember, this was before GMOs were ever an issue. Now imagine cutting a wedge in the tree’s trunk, grafting in a foreign branch, one not from the origin (for the sake of example let’s think of a nonorganic lemon branch). Once the tree accepts the branch both the orange and the lemon feed from the same roots. Using this illustration imagine the lemon branch as the pharmaceutical industry with non-therapeutic, price directed formulations with NPN licensing and owned pharmaceutical companies. Both are feeding from the origin of the roots (natural health food industry), both have NPN licensing, they appear on the product label as being the same and both are given licensing from Health Canada yet the two are not created equally. What is the difference? The lemon was never intended to be part of the original tree yet it remains protected while it feeds from the origin of the host. The pharmaceutical industry has absolutely no appreciation of natural vitamin supplements, they believe they are unscientific, a waste of money and offer no value for improving health and could possibly bring damage to it, they entered for the bottom line. An average person would have no idea that this was happening because everything on the surface appears the same but to me it is a covert operation to penetrate the other’s camp like a trojan horse.
What I am about to state is in the public domain and not new but in my position I am sticking my neck out as some in our industry do not want Pandora’s Box to be opened. You can decide from the evidence yourself and come to your own conclusion whether you are fine with this. Let’s take a look at Nestlé for example the fact that they purchased a company with multiple big name vitamin brands in 2017 for $2.3 billion. At the time many natural health retailers expressed outrage over the purchase, given Nestlé’s unethical track record. I share this information after 5 years to prove my point how grafted branches that have no identity to the host are feeding from the same roots and in time people forget and they are accepted. Does this purchase mean the brands have changed? For this I have no inside information, I am hopeful they remain the same. What I do know is if Doctor’s Choice were to be sold to an outside corporate interest, our USP quality raw material sourcing would immediately be changed to industry standards.
If you do not know the underbelly of this corporate giant, let me share some of their dealings. Nestlé’s former 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.” It has been said that this was taken out of context and that he did not mean to say this so let’s give him the benefit of doubt. Have there been any other indiscretions? Nestlé is actually the world’s largest producer of bottled water, and they are quite protective of their products. They made news in 2017 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. It has been alleged that Nestlé commonly uses cheap, third world labour, including child labour, which prompted a lawsuit against them this year.
Nestlé is a massive company; their properties include baby food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. Isn’t it nice to see such diversity? Maybe not if we look a bit deeper. Earlier Nestlé promoted their infant formula to impoverished nations. “Outrage started in the 1970s, when Nestlé was accused of getting third world mothers hooked on formula, which is less healthy and more expensive than breast milk.” 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 Nestlé would offer free formula samples to mothers in the hospital, once they were out, parents had to buy the formula. Nestlé 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.
Problems regarding Nestlé’s water sourcing affect many countries in the world. In California there is no legal means to force the company to disclose how much water they are taking. Similar problems are happening in Pakistan, where a Nestlé well left locals without potable water.
Personally, I do not support companies like Nestlé that profit on the suffering of others yet it should be noted that they are not the only giant conglomerate that has purchased supplement brands. Procter & Gamble owns a vitamin and supplement company and Clorox also owns several natural health products. With such huge corporate conglomerates taking over natural products something is bound to get lost in the shuffle. Unfortunately, the conglomerates will not slow down the production process to ensure natural quality standards to be in place, their higher objective is shareholders profits. 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. In fact, the Seattle Times reported that China has over 90% of the vitamin C market in the United States.
It is true that China played a large role in drowning out the US market for vitamin B1, B2, B6, B12, and folic acid. However, disclosing the country of origin is not a requirement for vitamin supplement labelling. This is 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% of all vitamins and supplements are inspected, and even USDA organic standards place no limit on heavy metal contamination for certified organic foods.
We just touched on what I call the China Syndrome; presently they control 90% of the feed grade raw materials used in vitamin supplements and drugs. China managed to eliminate most raw material producers and suppliers with lower product quality, e.g. by replacing fermented vegan amino acids to chemically extracted ones made from sewage sludge, human or hose hair or duck feathers. They forced out producers in America, Japan and European manufacturers by undercutting the raw material prices and with such power they have begun to exercise their power of control on all health-related products: both supplements and drugs. China has a monopoly, they doubled the selling price of vitamin B6 and folic acid, they created a worldwide shortage on B6 pyridoxine, (we do not use this version in any of our formulations instead we use the active pyridoxal-5′-phosphate (P5P) form of B6).
With all this control what is China’s next move? With these natural health companies under outside corporate interests and China as their raw material suppliers things are bound to change. The biblical quote “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” comes to mind as it does not take much to turn things around. Knowing who owns the companies of the supplements you are taking is one thing that can quickly focus the attention on details by reading product labels because non-medicinal ingredients say a lot. You may have discovered that we do not use harmful flow agents; if needed we use ascorbal palmitate fat soluble vitamin C. We only use raw materials in natural preabsorbed state in all our formulation, P5P for B6, for folic acid we use 5–methyltetrahydrofolate (5–MTHF) and for B12 we use methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin, because cyanocobalamin cannot be found in nature.
From time to time, we may be out of stock on certain items but this is the result of added wait times for USP pharmaceutical grade raw materials. In some cases we order one year in advance for our raw materials because of the global demand. The cost is sometimes ten times greater: L-Tryptophan is one example compared to the Chinese sourced feed grade raw materials that are, by the way, readily available. Since we are setting the record straight, we have had confused customers questioning Life Choice using USP pharmaceutical grade raw materials believing they have something to do with Pharma. USP stands for the United States Pharmacopeia – National Formulary (USP-NF) it includes over 5000 quality standards for medicines, both chemical and biologic; active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs); and excipients (inactive ingredients). It is the most comprehensive source for medicine quality standards in the world.
Where does this leave consumers? Unfortunately, the window of reliable natural brands is shrinking, that organic orange tree is now covered in lemons and those who want to support the natural industry should do their homework about the brands they want to support with their purchases. We remain after 36 years a family-owned company; we would encourage customers to vote with their dollars, and support like-minded companies. A question that begs to be answered is that if the organic tree produces another branch, what will it be? It will be an organic orange, returning to its origin. For the sake of the natural health industry, we must return to our roots of origin, and once again stand to be different from Pharma. And this applies on so many levels today, the life of our very roots depend on it.
 Krasny, Jill. 2012.
 Johnson, Tim. 2007.