Dave Wetzel of Green Pasture

The cod liver oil recriminations have begun, and it’s not pretty.

Since nutritionist Kaayla Daniel released her devastating 111-page report on Saturday, contending that Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil is rancid, devoid of significant Vitamin D, and not from cod, the company’s many supporters in the world of nutrient-dense food have been pleading for people to suspend judgment.

Let Green Pasture and its owner, Dave Wetzel, along with the Weston A. Price Foundation, where he is a major event sponsor and on its board of advisers, respond, they have said. What do they want? Something like the plea of a teenage boy in 1919, when baseball’s Black Sox gambling scandal exploded, who shouted at Chicago White Sox star Shoeless Joe Jackson: “Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.” People want Green Pasture’s owner, Dave Wetzel, to “say it ain’t so.”

Well, Wetzel yesterday did say it ain’t so, but in so doing, he essentially accused Kaayla Daniel of unprofessional and dishonest behavior. He said  in a statement on his company’s web site that about a year ago, Daniel emailed him her concerns about his company’s “fermented” cod liver oil.

“In response, I offered Dr. Daniel an all expense paid trip to our facility to so that she may observe anything she would like and audit our work to her content. The offer was met with silence. I also emailed her a number of test results that I immediately had conducted on random samples of our products in response to her concerns. Again, the results were met with silence. We have never communicated on the subject once the offer for her to visit was made. Rather than base her conclusions on firsthand knowledge she relies on unspecified conversations, Internet rumor, and her own speculations about our processes and quality control that she recently published in a report titled ‘Hook, Line and Stinker: The Truth About Fermented Cod Liver Oil’.

Wetzel goes on to argue that his own tests have shown the Daniel report’s suggestions  that his company’s cod liver oil is rancid, devoid of significant vitamin D, and not from cod, are false. He promises a full report sometime in the future.

In the meantime, the Weston A. Price Foundation, in a statement to its members, referred them once again to a report from last February that “found no signs of rancidity in Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil.” Like Wetzel, the WAPF promised a full report on cod liver oil “soon.” In the meantime, it said, “we continue to endorse this product.”

I inquired with Kaayla Daniel today about her response to the Wetzel accusations that she dissed him a year ago. “It is not true that I met Wetzel’s invitation with silence.  Last winter, I told Wetzel I could not accept his all-expense paid visit, but would be willing to visit at my own expense.  At that time, he informed me that I could visit but that his lawyer would be present at all times.  At that point, I decided not to travel because I knew I wouldn’t see much. It would have cost me more than $2000 between plane, hotel and rental car — $3000  if I brought a needed witness — and I needed that money for lab testing.

“I also realized that little, if anything, would be accomplished by a visit. I had already talked to Wetzel in depth on many occasions. My specific questions were always met with evasive, vague, confusing and often contradictory answers.  And the stories about the products and processing kept changing over the months and years.”

As for Vitamin D absorption in rats, Daniel says, “Gall bladders are critical for the assimilation of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in humans.  Rats don’t have gall bladders so the studies Wetzel cites have questionable applicability to humans.”

She explains the markers for rancidity: “Rancidity is a complicated issue that I have addressed in depth in my report. In brief, Peroxide Values and Anisidine Values are reliable  markers, but only of early stage rancidity.  The Green Pasture product has consistently tested at low levels of Peroxide and Anisidine but high levels of Fatty Acids and Acid Value. This is true of the lab tests I ordered as well as those reported by Wetzel himself.  The high Free Fatty Acid and Acid Value numbers indicate advanced rancidity and far exceed standards set by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED).

She adds, “Wetzel somehow thinks high levels of Free Fatty Acid level are desirable and that industry standards don’t apply to his product.  To the contrary, high free fatty acids mean rancid polyunsaturated acids and risk to human health.”

Finally, she addresses the cod-pollack issue.   “Just as industry standards don’t apply to his special processing, Wetzel seems to think food labeling laws do not apply to his special product.  As I proved through DNA testing, FCLO is labeled a cod liver oil but actually comes from Alaskan pollock.  The fact that pollock is in the cod family does not absolve Green Pasture from the charge of mislabeling.”

What stands out to me most starkly in these conflicting accounts is Daniel’s recollection that Wetzel wanted to have a lawyer present when she visited his facilities. That rings true to me because the first thing Wetzel told me on Saturday in response to the Daniel report was that he was having his lawyers (he used the plural) study it. As a long-time WAPF member put it to me after reading my previous blog post, “Why would he have lawyers reviewing the report, and not scientists?”

Usually you have lawyers because you either anticipate filing suit against people, or you anticipate them filing suit or other legal action against you. That’s why I project the cod liver oil recriminations could lead to a bitter and protracted struggle. In my next blog post, I will explore what this struggle might look like.