New Cod Liver Oil Scandal? Let’s Hope Not



It was just about a year ago that the fermented-cod-liver-oil scandal exploded onto the foodie scene via an officer of the Weston A. Price Foundation scolding her organization for endorsing and promoting the only known commercial brand of FCLO, from Nebraska company Green Pasture.

Over several months last fall, ugly charges and counter-charges ricochet around the Internet—on this blog (just search under FCLO); on the WAPF web site; on the site of Kaayla Daniel, the WAPF officer who issued the report; on  the Cheeseslave site, and on Facebook, among any number of other places.  By the time the dust cleared at the end of the year:

  • An unknown number of long-time WAPF members had sworn off WAPF;
  • Any number of long-time readers of this blog had sworn off this blog, and me;
  • Sally Fallon Morrell had banned WAPF chapters from linking to this blog and to Kaayla Daniels’ site, and even excommunicated one chapter that challenged the rule;
  • Attendance at the WAPF national conference in Anaheim last November was way down from previous recent years, and the mood at the gathering, by many accounts, was somber;
  • At that poorly managed WAPF event in Anaheim, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control set in motion the confiscation and testing of raw milk from Amos Miller’s farm, leading to the launch of a major federal legal initiative against the Pennsylvania Amish farmer.
  • A cooperative reporting effort on the FLCO controversy and its spinoffs, between Ann Marie Michaels of Cheeseslave and me, disintegrated into a public spat over allowing certain critical comments to appear on this blog.
  • A new organization, meant to be a more democratic counterweight to WAPF, launched with a conference in Massachusetts last November, and continues to organize as the Hunt-Gather-Grow Foundation.
  • Just when it seemed as if things couldn’t get any crazier, reports surfaced that Sally Fallon Morrell’s husband, Geoffrey Morrell, had made weird sexual advances on women attending WAPF annual conferences.

I know I’m probably missing a number of other repercussions, no doubt because I’ve blanked them out. That was a thoroughly unpleasant and tense few months, at least for me.

And then, by the end of last year, a strange, almost eerie, silence descended over the online foodie world about FCLO. Until the last couple of weeks, when Cheeseslave published a report claiming another brand of cod liver oil, also promoted by WAPF, is owned by a man convicted of making sexual advances to minors on the Internet.

And just in the last few days, the author  of the report that triggered the whole fiasco, Kaayla Daniel, posted a Q&A on her web site, essentially arguing that WAPF and Sally Fallon Morrell, in their ongoing denials about charges FCLO is a high-risk food supplement, never proved any of her report’s allegations to be untrue.

So, are we witnessing the start of FCLO Scandal, Part 2?

I don’t think so, and I certainly hope not. As far as I’m concerned, the main point of last fall’s events was to alert users of FCLO to the potential dangers of the product, which essentially appear to stem from its rancidity.  It seems clear from many testimonials that the product was a factor in illnesses among any number of individuals, including Ron Schmid of Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure, and Cathy Raymond, founding executive director of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

I would have expected Sally Fallon Morrell would have been more receptive to the questionable data, and the dangers of FCLO, but alas, she wasn’t. (Nor was the manufacturer of FCLO, Green Pasture, or its owner, David Wetzel.)

The good news is that potential users of FCLO, which was widely used pre-scandal as a cure-all by most individuals who follow the Weston A. Price Foundation’s teachings in any way, now have information to more objectively assess the product. All they have to do is search this blog under “FCLO”, or do a google search under “fermented cod liver oil, controversy”. Though Wetzel has been tight-lipped, it seems safe to say that sales of the Green Pasture product declined significantly because of the disclosures.

The new disclosure that the maker of another cod liver oil has a criminal history, and the argument that Fallon Morrell should somehow have known about the history before allowing the product to be endorsed by the WAPF, just rings hollow. As Fallon Morell says in a statement published on the Cheeseslave site: “Whether individuals wish to purchase the Nutra-Pro cod liver oil given this knowledge is their individual decision.”

She makes a very important point. Unfortunately, there are all kinds of low-lifes  running businesses large and small. If they are making products we ingest, then the key question to be asking is whether that product is safe or not. So long as the product is safe, and the troubled individuals running them have paid their penalty to society, then it seems they aren’t doing anything wrong.

The problems with the hysterical shouts of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” is that they invariably lead to demands for “more regulation” and “get the FDA in there.” A classic case of such hysteria could be heard on an NPR program last month: “The Battle to Regulate Cosmetics”.  A NY Times reporter got on with his research that cosmetics, which we put all over our bodies, aren’t seriously regulated, even though they could cause harm. Mind you, there’s no evidence they are causing any kind of illness, but the fact that they could had most of the guests, including host Tom Ashbrook, wondering why the FDA didn’t have more authority over cosmetics, and demanding that something be done to give the FDA more authority.

I just wonder, if Fallon Morrell continues ignoring Ann Marie Michaels jumping up and down and demanding action against the new cod liver oil problem, isn’t the logical next step getting the regulators in there and making things right?

But if we want to retain our rights to nutritional supplements, then we need to show we can do our own research, and make our own decisions. Ann Marie Michaels says in her post that she learned about the Nutra-Pro owner’s criminal past by reading Amazon reviews of the product. Reading online product reviews turns out to be an excellent way to research nutritional supplements. I do it when I have heard or read about a supplement someone is recommending that I find interesting. I’ve learned from such research about potential side effects, or whether a supplement does what its maker promises. The more reviews there are, the more data you receive.

Yes, Sally Fallon Morrell makes an easy punching bag. But really, don’t we have enough punching and hysterics floating around the Internet. Picking out villains and conspiracies to kick and hit has become kind of a national pastime. Not that there aren’t villains out there. But things have gotten carried away, to the point our presidential election has become something of a social media hate fest.

Fallon Morrell has been called out plenty of times. Now that we have lots of info about the problems of FCLO, let’s take it upon ourselves to accept responsibility for doing our own fact checking.

12 comments to New Cod Liver Oil Scandal? Let’s Hope Not

  • mark mcafee mark mcafee

    Instead of commenting…..I would rather report that the Fermentation Festival in Goleta California held over the weekend was well attended, totally awesome and filled with joy and plenty of great bacteria loving people. I was able to provide raw butter to Melisa Henig ( Raw Paleo chef and food inventor ) to make a fantastic vita mix blended cocoa, raw honey, OPDC raw butter, raw egg moose… That rocked the crowd. It was totally addictive! Goes straight to your raw fat loving brain. It was an honor to be her farmer as we co presented and talked about all the great things raw dairy can do for gut and the pallet.

    This cocoa moose is going to become the new birthday cake decoration for every one of my grand kids….its delicious and builds brains and bodies. What greater gift for your birthday!!

    David…I would like to hear more about Michael and the camera scandal and how the Justice of the Peace ( or the crown or what ever they have up there ) dismissed all charges related to the “raw milk camera gate”. What a steadfast gutsy hero!!

    FCLO is so yesterday….HUNT GATHER GROW has a great new logo and I love the mission.

    It is my hope that we can “all just get along” regardless of where we are in the world of real food.
    WAP, Price Pottinger, PALEO, Raw Foodies, Wholefoodists….we are all one family of humans trying to find our way through the tortured food mess.

    • David Gumpert David Gumpert

      Michael Schmidt’s acquittal was a big win in his long struggle. Not sure I have a lot to add to what the judge said, which is what was obvious all along: that there wasn’t a case there. Schmidt has obviously aroused the ire of the Canadian regulators with his refusal to buckle. So what they’ve done is throw everything but the kitchen sink at him, figuring that all they have to do is win one of their cases to possibly get him tossed in jail, and break him financially.

      I believe that after this acquittal, there are still four cases pending against him. He’s a brave and tenacious man, standing up to the State the way he has.

  • Bill

    What is interesting about WAPF’s responses to the NutraPro news is the fact that WAPF just admitted that:

    1. They don’t know how NutraPro cod liver oil is manufactured.
    2. They have not tested NutraPro cod liver oil for vitamins.

    Then why is it rated “Best”?

  • Apparently CLO is on many of our minds right now. If it is of use to anyone, I thought I’d share a link to my recent blog post where I talked with Archie Welch about ways for people to assess the quality of their cod liver oil, including tips for knowing how processed the oil has been , whether it comes from arctic cod, etc.

    • David Gumpert David Gumpert

      Sarah, thanks for sharing–good tips there. You should also have shared your post that ignited the concerns about fermented cod liver oil, in early 2013. The comments are full of testimonials from individuals sickened by FCLO.

    • Thanks for the link Sarah and for you ongoing articles David. Your article is full of a lot of useful information Sarah. In Canada, we have seal oil and a growing market here and around the world (except the USA) for it but the same applies when it comes to which one to purchase. To my knowledge, all other seal oil is refined bleached and deodorized – much of what you share is the same. The differences are few – seal oil isn’t a natural rich source of vitamin D and A because I believe it is not from the liver. However, the omega balance 1:1, DPA levels and the molecular structure (allows for sublingual absorption) differences are present and effective.

      I have been working with and selling the Auum Omega 3 for over 8 years because of this reason.

      Once upon a time, I would get over 90 hits on the WAPF’s website but not even one now and feel it is because of the focus on selling the CLO.

      FYI Only Here is more information on my website:

      I really do wish the best for people and not get hung up on the various issues that stray away from this. Good questions all around.

      Thanks Sarah and thank you David.

  • Lynn_M Lynn_M

    Surely the democratic governance concept of the newly named Hunt-Gather-Grow Foundation should include some kind of communication with its members? I have been sorely disappointed in the total silence since the inaugural conference. I’m sure that will be remedied by a request for more money for membership renewal soon.

  • Julie M.

    Ann Marie Michaels is also the same person who sold lifetime memberships to her classes and then suddenly said she was out of business, posted a few of the online videos and then ignored emails when those of us who had paid for the classes asked if we could have access to the Healthy Whole Grains videos. Not exactly someone who seems trustworthy?

    • D. Smith D. Smith

      @ Julie M: Whenever someone sells you a lifetime membership to something, you need to find out if they’re talking about their lifetime or yours, or the lifetime of the business. Life is complicated these days because people have made it so.

  • D. Smith D. Smith

    It was good to get the update from Dr. Daniel through email yesterday. No one gets her down, thank God!

  • Amanda

    I literally am now wondering if Ann Marie Michaels is some sort of gov’t plant sent to stir shit up in the WAPF/real food community at just the right moments to make it easier for regulator types to come in and take down sources like Miller while she’s got everyone in a frenzy over her wild accusations. Her timing, and the fact that she appears to be obsessed with exposing lurid tabloid-fodderesque gossip is just a tad bit suspicious IMO. Unlike the last topic of sexual misconduct, this one seems to have virtually no relevance whatsoever to WAPF or it’s members.

    • Amanda

      On second thought, she does seem to be vehemently opposed to vaccines so perhaps she is not a gov’t plant and maybe I’m just overreacting. Honestly though, it is bizarre that she is making such a big deal over something that, as far as anyone can tell, has nothing to do with the quality of the Nutra-Pro product. I think Ann Marie’s “shocking new development” would be taken more seriously by all parties involved if she simply refrained from making accusatory assumptions and instead just share whatever information she has uncovered with others to help them make informed decisions.

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