A dispute that has been simmering within the Weston A. Price Foundation over the integrity of a brand of so-called “fermented” cod liver oil, burst into the open this weekend.
Last October, I reported about an emerging dispute over Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil and whether it really was fermented and not just rancid, was dividing members, and how it would likely be a distraction at the organization’s national conference last November in Indianapolis.
Well, that simmering dispute has now exploded into a major controversy, with a report by WAPF’s vice president, Kaayla Daniel, contending that Green Pasture cod liver oil, which has been repeatedly and heavily endorsed by the organization, not only isn’t fermented, but is rancid, is a poor source of Vitamin D, and isn’t even from cod.
Reactions to Daniel’s report were swift. Dr. Ron’s Ultra Pure, a supplement company owned by Ron Schmid, a naturopath who has been a long-time WAPF supporter, said on his web site he was no longer carrying Green Pasture cod liver oil and butter oil.
On a separate page, he published a long account of his own experience with heart failure a few years ago, which he attributed to fermented cod liver oil. “In the six years I took fermented cod liver oil, I went from running ten miles a day to being barely able to walk across the room. My cardiologist, a world renowned physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital named Mark Marieb, was at first skeptical of my theory that cod liver oil had caused my heart problems. But as he has followed what he calls my ‘miraculous recovery’ from advanced heart failure (the usual prognosis is death within three to six months, and when first admitted at Yale-New Haven, I was seen by the Heart Transplant Team), he has gradually accepted that the cause of my heart failure was excessive amounts of cod liver oil.”
Dave Wetzel, owner of Green Pasture, called me to request I hold off publishing Kaayla Daniel’s findings. “They will be shown to be false,” he said. He declined to explain what specifically was wrong with her findings, except to suggest that there are problems in how she determines what is rancid. I told him I was publishing something today (Saturday), but would be glad to publish additional information when he has it.
Wetzel added that he has several lawyers studying the report, and that he will be issuing a rebuttal within days. Green Pasture sells huge amounts of its fermented cod liver oil via its web site, holistic providers like Dr. Ron, and at Weston A. Price Foundation events like its national conference, where it has one of the largest exhibits among sponsors.
Sally Fallon Morrell responded to my inquiry by referring me to a WAPF rebuttal last February to the initial concerns expressed last summer and fall about the Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil. It said, in part:
“The Weston A. Price Foundation has recently received several inquiries about the possibility of rancidity in fermented cod liver oil. After conducting our own due diligence, we have concluded that these concerns are unfounded.” It included results of lab reports it says show the Green Pasture product isn’t rancid. It added: “The Weston A. Price Foundation has performed an appropriate due diligence investigation and has found no credible evidence of rancidity or putrefaction in the Green Pastures fermented CLO. We continue to endorse this product.”
The fact that the accusation comes from Kaayla Daniel is revealing of just how deep the fissure over cod liver oil goes at WAPF. Daniel is the WAPF vice president, while Sally Fallon Morrell is its president. (Daniel is also on the board of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.) The two are even co-authors of a book published earlier this year, Nourishing Broth.
In her report, Daniel says she first became concerned about the integrity of the Green Pasture cod liver oil last summer, when she heard and read some of the same reports I referred to in my blog post of last October. But she says her efforts to get WAPF to investigate ran into a brick wall.
“As I reeled in the evidence, I came to believe there was something seriously wrong with FCLO. I thought the Weston A. Price Foundation should get to the bottom of it, and advised Sally Fallon Morell that we needed to test the Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil product properly and not just rely on David Wetzel’s assurances and his testing. I expressed concerns to her and later to WAPF’s Board of Directors about probable rancidity and possible putrefaction, and said I was skeptical of data showing improbably high levels of Vitamin D2 in the product. I furthermore shared reports from clinicians who were finding severe Vitamin D deficiencies among some members who were regularly taking FCLO. As Vice President of WAPF, I felt the safety of our members and the credibility of the foundation were at stake.
“In December 2014, WAPF’s Board of Directors voted against testing based on Sally Fallon Morell’s beliefs, David Wetzel’s assurances, and scientific data of limited and questionable value. I was strongly advised to relax, leave the science to people who could be ‘fair to Dave’ and to toe the FCLO line.
“Instead I went underground and set out on my own to test FCLO at some of the world’s top laboratories.”
She says her tests, at five independent labs in the U.S., Norway, and the Netherlands, confirmed her worst fears. “Lab tests indicate the Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil is rancid; putrid; low in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K; apparently diluted with a trans-fat containing vegetable oil — and not even from cod. We have reliable reports that the X-Factor Gold Butter Oil comes from Argentina, not the Great Plains, and it tests rancid as well. And contrary to Green Pasture’s advertising, Dr. Weston A. Price’s own words make it clear that these are not products he would ever have endorsed.”
Daniel advises users of the “fermented” cod liver oil “take back your power” and “take care not to be duped again.” She offers individuals who feel they have had their health harmed by the product “a free mini appointment” by phone or via Skype. (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, Weston A. Price members and supporters reacted with shock and disbelief to the Daniel findings. On The Complete Patient and Nourishing Ourselves Facebook pages, dozens of WAPF members and adherents discussed how to handle the latest cod liver oil findings. A number of people asked their cohorts to remain calm, until Green Pasture and the WAPF come out with further responses. Others, though, were more demanding. Said one: “One thing to remember is whilst it’s easy to say ‘stay calm’, many families, ourselves included, naturally have strong opinions and emotions involved. If in fact this shows to be truly adulterated, putrified oil, how much money was directed from our personal family’s budget and funneled to GP. It’s only a natural response to feel the way many who are questioning the wapf establishment do.”