Someone wrote on a Facebook food site about what a relief it’s been the last couple of weeks to have a break in the fermented cod liver oil controversy. While there definitely has been less discussion, on this blog and elsewhere, it’s not as if the problems associated with fermented cod liver oil produced by Green Pasture have disappeared.
Kaayla Daniel, the nutritionist and former Weston A. Price Foundation vice president and director, who initiated the uproar in late August with publication of her study concluding that the Green Pasture product is rancid, not always made from cod livers, and lacking in key vitamins, has posted on her blog three cases of people with heart problems that they think may have been caused by FCLO (which she calls “rancid pollock liver oil”). She says she’s aware of a couple dozen such cases in total.
Meanwhile, the chief promoters of FCLO—Dave Wetzel of Green Pasture and Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation—go dancing along like contestants on “Dancing with the Stars”, as if nothing is amiss. Green Pasture has a big promo going on at its web site (“Wise Traditions Conference Giveaway”) to award one lucky person free transportation/hotel accommodations/admittance fee (one of these) to attend the Weston A. Price Foundation annual conference Nov. 13-17. All this, presumably so they can then buy lots of the Green Pasture product, and encourage others to do the same.
I haven’t seen a word of acknowledgment or concern from either Dave Wetzel or Sally Fallon Morell about the illnesses that have cropped up—no commitment to investigate further, no expressions of concern for the people likely made ill, no warnings about potential dangers to upcoming conference attendees who will find Green Pasture with its dominating conference exhibit. It’s not as if Fallon Morell never takes strong stands against certain foods most of us take for granted. This from her on the WAPF site: “We do not allow products with chocolate at our conference or in our shopping guide.” So, rancid fish oil is okay, but cacao, a plant-based food enjoyed the world over, and thought to provide health benefits, is out.
If it seem as if I’m trying to reignite the torrid debate about FCLO that went on for several weeks here, I’m not. No, I just want to say how profoundly discouraging, even depressing, I have found the reactions of Wetzel and Fallon Morell, along with those of their many followers who similarly express not an iota of concern or caring about people who may well have become ill from FCLO.
The bulk of my discouragement is with WAPF, because it has the power to change this situation around. If Sally Fallon Morell told Dave Wetzel to engage in serious outside testing, and issue warnings about the potential dangers of his product, or lose WAPF as a backer, you can be sure he would comply. Wetzel is behaving like a lot of business people do in such situations—they don’t take common-sense precautions until and unless they are forced to do so, whether by partners or by government.
What matters here much more than my personal feelings, though, are the significant public messages communicated by the failure to take a hard look at this product, and alert people who trust WAPF, about the potential dangers. Here are seven comforting images I had about WAPF that have been shattered as a result of the Weston A. Price Foundation’s shame.
- That WAPF offers trusted guidance about nutrient-dense food. Someone commented here early on that he was relieved to discover Sally Fallon Morell, and her well-reasoned answers to all the contradictory information spewed about food and health. It certainly is comforting to realize that nutrient-dense food like raw milk and pastured beef and fermented food can significantly improve our health, and that one resource can tell you everything you need to know. But if she can’t allow the possibility that she may have screwed up this once, with so many case examples coming forth, well, I for one start wondering about all the endorsements she has made. Fallon Morell has despaired more than once that government regulators refuse to take seriously the many testimonials raw milk drinkers offer about their improved health. Yet here she is doing the same thing—ignoring testimonials of health issues put forth by consumers of FCLO.
- That WAPF is free from the financial conflicts of interest that plague the conventional food system. Yet here we have a cozy sweetheart financial arrangement between WAPF and Green Pasture whereby WAPF and many of its chapter leaders continue to encourage people to buy a product that could be making some people sick. It makes one wonder what other financial conflicts of interest fester beneath the surface at WAPF.
- That WAPF is open-minded about food and health. Yet here they are stuck in their ideologies and financially-based prejudices. WAPF is in the untenable position of defending to the death a product that looks to be rancid and which organization namesake Dr. Weston A. Price never embraced, and actually warned against. Why? Because Sally Fallon Morell and Dave Wetzel say so, that’s why.
- That WAPF is humanitarian, concerned about the long-term safety of its members, and especially their children. Yet in its black-and-white view of the world, a rancid fish product could never be unsafe, while vaccinations and genetically-modified (GMO) food are completely unsafe. When I realize that FCLO could be creating heart problems in a significant number of users—a possibility that is completely denied or ignored by its promoters—it’s enough to get people wondering if, just maybe, WAPF’s condemnation of vaccines or embracing of cholesterol could be flawed. Once you lose a little credibility, you actually lose a whole lot of credibility.
- That WAPF wouldn’t get stuck in endless, irrational denial, like the government and its Big Ag partners do. I must say, that when I read in comments on my blog some of the emotional denials of any possibility that FCLO is dangerous, despite reputable lab testing, I feel like I’m reading FDA dairy chief John Sheehan’s denials that European research on raw milk could have any validity. There’s the same twisting of facts and misrepresentation of lab or research results to always come up with the exact same conclusion (that FCLO is fine, or that raw milk is iso risky it should never be consumed by anyone anywhere).
- That WAPF would never use as its primary evidence, paid-for scientists, the way Monsanto and other backers of GMO foods do. Yet here we’ve seen the main, most often cited, scientific source of authority being Chris Masterjohn, in significant measure bought and paid for by WAPF.
- That we can police ourselves to ensure safe food. I have long felt that small local food producers can police themselves on food safety issues more effectively than the government can, or will. Now I’m not so sure. And that’s because the Weston A. Price Foundation and its partner, Green Pasture, missed a huge opportunity to demonstrate in real time that small food producers are different than big ones and, when push comes to shove, will put safety concerns ahead of financial ones.
Part of the reason I’m so discouraged about all this is that I’ve been on WAPF’s side on major food issues, especially raw milk. This controversy reinforces the wisdom of Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. to create a separate organization, the Raw Milk Institute, to develop safety-based standards for raw milk, apart from WAPF. Otherwise, I highly doubt WAPF would ever have admitted to any concerns about illnesses from raw milk, or taken any action to encourage dairy farm safety standards.
Just before the WAPF board met late last month to carry out Sally Fallon Morell’s orders to remove Kaayla Daniel from the organization for issuing her FCLO report, I asked board members to consider having a serious debate on the real problem here. But the WAPF board seems not to have any semblance of backbone to question the supreme leader. Rather, it behaves as if it is part of a cult.
Yes, the FCLO issue seems to have died down. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all benefit from serious time spent looking in the mirror, and asking ourselves what we are, or aren’t, doing to ensure that people we care about aren’t consuming questionable food.