Fortification Frauds

By Jacobson, Michael F. | Nutrition Action Healthletter, June 2008 | Go to article overview
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Fortification Frauds

Jacobson, Michael F., Nutrition Action Healthletter

This issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter is about dietary supplements--in pill and food form. But it is also about rampant fraud.

The supplement craze started in 1970, when Nobel laureate Linus Pauling contended that megadoses of vitamin C prevent the common cold. There never were more than shards of evidence that vitamin C could ward off colds, but Pauling's megadose hypothesis paved the way for the burgeoning supplement industry.

Countless companies have based countless products on non-existent evidence, taking in the gullible ... and even the somewhat skeptical.

For many years, it was the pill pushers who proclaimed supplements' glories. But in recent years, small food companies began to put their toes in the "functional foods" waters. Major corporations, not wanting to miss out on a wave of sales, have now dived in.

In the past, the FDA has expressed concern about the frivolous fortification of foods. It reasoned that haphazardly adding cheap nutrients or other substances to a food might make it attractive, bur that the nutrients might not be needed ... and that excessive amounts might even be harmful.

Clearly, these foods, which are sometimes sold at a premium price, deceive and bilk consumers by dangling the promise of unproven health benefits.

For example:

* Kellogg adds vitamin A, calcium, zinc, and half a dozen other vitamins and minerals to Nutri-Grain cereal bars, which consist largely of white flour and sugar.

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