Fad Diets Force Risky Switch to Trans-fats by Natural Products Industry

Sacramento, CA – October 2, 2003-- A recent deterioration in ingredient standards is putting the natural products industry at risk, according to comments made by Jay Jacobowitz, president of Brattleboro, VT-based Retail Insights, at the National Nutritional Foods Association—West annual conference held here this weekend. In a statement delivered to attendees, Jacobowitz called the widely publicized National Academy of Sciences' 2003 findings on trans-fats an industry "wake-up call."

"Throughout its history, the natural products industry has held the moral high ground in health care because of its refusal to sell products with known harmful ingredients. But today this is no longer true," Jacobowitz said. In its report to the nation released this summer, NAS deemed foods that contain trans-fats—also called hydrogenated oils—to be unhealthy because they increase the risk for many ailments including hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and stroke.

Based on these findings, Jacobowitz said, "Natural products marketers should be in a position to offer consumers a healthier alternative to trans-fats." But, because of recent popular fads such as low-carbohydrate weight loss diets, among others, many natural products retailers now sell products that contain these harmful ingredients, according to Jacobowitz. "Selling trans-fats," Jacobowitz asserted, "damages our credibility and undermines our hard-won reputation as an industry dedicated to health."

David Seckman, national executive director and CEO of the National Nutritional Foods Association, concurred with Jacobowitz' assessment. "The trans-fat issue is part of a disturbing series of quality lapses over the last several years that have heightened concern over the industry's ability to police itself, particularly in the area of unsubstantiated health claims for nutritional supplements," Seckman said.

To prevent the lingering sales slump in nutritional supplements from infecting the food side of the business, Jacobowitz said, "We must reaffirm our commitment to quality." Drawing a parallel to the health care industry, Jacobowitz warned, "We are failing to deliver on our promise of health when we seek expediency over what is best for our customers." The health care industry has failed in this regard as well, Jacobowitz said, citing the large Rand study findings released in June that showed only 55% of medical diagnosis and treatment is correct for a host of widespread diseases.

This means, Jacobowitz said, that the health care industry has neglected its most basic tenet: the Hippocratic Oath to, 'First, do no harm.' "When we sell trans-fats and other questionable ingredients," Jacobowitz added, "we not only abandon our most basic standards, but also sacrifice one of our most meaningful differences in the marketplace—our quality." Fad-driven profits will fade, Jacobowitz predicted, and will impair the industry's ability to grow beyond its current customer base."

In offering his vision for the future, Jacobowitz concluded that, “our opportunity is limited by the public trust. In order to maintain that trust, we must rededicate ourselves to quality and to our mission, 'to facilitate wellness, and to restore and uphold the Hippocratic Oath.'"

Jay Jacobowitz is president of Brattleboro, VT-based Retail Insights, a professional consulting service specializing in the natural products/Wellness industry. In addition to consulting, Jacobowitz is a speaker, educator and writer with a regular column published in Whole Foods Magazine.

Retail Insights also offers the Retail Insights® Nutrition Newsletter, a monthly customer-education program available for independent natural products retailers on an exclusive, private-label basis.

Toll-free: 1 800 328-0855; E-mail: [email protected]

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