When the Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions conference convenes in Indianapolis late next week, there will be sessions on bone broth, nutrient-dense vegetables, re-building the gut, raw milk safety, and traditional diets, among many others. But possibly the most intensely debated topic will be relegated to the hallways because it is too hot to handle in the formal sessions: Who is selling the most authentic cod liver oil, Dave Wetzel of Green Pasture Products or Dan Corrigan of Corganic?
Both Wetzel and Corrigan are long-time WAPF conference sponsors and will have displays at the Indianapolis event. And they will each almost certainly be fielding tough questions and comments from attendees who are debating and discussing the cod liver oil matter. The big mystery is whether they will be discussing among themselves the questions that customers have been wondering about, including:
-Can cod liver oil really be fermented?
-What is the most authentic ancient tradition for producing cod liver oil?
-Is it normal to have such widely varying reactions to one of the products?
-Does cod liver oil provide as effective a health benefit as ratfish or skatefish oil?
It has been Weston A. Price Foundation gospel that Dr. Price, the dentist whose teachings from the early to mid-1900s underlie the organization, strongly recommended cod liver oil produced according to ancient methods as the best way to obtain Vitamin D3 and ensure good dental and overall health. And it has been the conviction of Sally Fallon, who started the foundation and runs it, that the most authentic embodiment of Dr. Prices ideal cod liver oil is the fermented variety produced by Green Pasture Products of Nebraska. (Of course, cod liver oil has been taken by people around the world since the 1600s as an important source of vitamin D during winter months, when the sun isnt as reliable a source.)
Green Pasture, owned by Dave Wetzel, has long had one of the largest exhibits at Weston A. Price Foundation conferences. Wetzel and his team passes out samples of its cinnamon and mint flavored oil, along with plain cod liver oils. By all accounts, they are huge sellers, both by health care providers and re-sellers, and directly from Green Pasture. Each of his bottles of cod liver oil contains an homage on the label to Dr. Price and “his travels around the world” to “cultures that were strong of mind, body, and spirit” thanks to “the sacred and natural foods they consumed.”
But the cod-liver-oil debate has provoked such intense discussion and arguing in WAPF circles and on social media that it threatens a major rift in the organization. Dan Corrigan of Corganic helped run the first WAPF chapter, in Michigan, beginning in 2001. Ironically, that chapter on its web site sold Green Pasture cod liver oil, and helped raise $50,000 for the fledgling local organization. (WAPF has since expanded to dozens of chapters around the country.)
But so offended is WAPF founder Sally Fallon about Corrigans stoking of the debate, including purchasing a Facebook ad questioning whether cod liver oil even can be fermented, that she has threatened to bar his company from exhibiting at future WAPF conferences. Corrigan, for his part, is offended that WAPF, in an annual rating of nutrient-dense food producers, rates Green Pasture cod liver oil best and the Corganic Rosita brand as only good.
I decided to explore the subject via a post here not only because the debate has become so intense that it is difficult to ignore, but because it highlights so well the limitations, even among very committed and knowledgeable people, of what we know about what truly improves and detracts from our health.
Now, before I go on, full disclosure. I have known both Sally Fallon and Dan Corrigan since 2006, when government aggressiveness against raw milk spilled onto the scene and I was covering a number of the regulatory actions against small farms. Fallon was commenting on the national situation, and Corrigan was an activist helping support Richard Hebron, a farmer and herd share manager whose truck full of raw milk was confiscated near Ann Arbor, leading to a major struggle that wound up with Hebron being let off and herd shares legalized in the state.
Shortly after the Hebron episode, Corrigan in 2007 launched Corganic, growing out of his desire, based on having a godson who is autistic, to serve that community with high-quality probiotics and other supplements.
While I havent known Dave Wetzel, I have chatted with him while he was passing out samples at previous WAPF conferences. I even had occasion to purchase Green Pasture cod liver oil at one of the events several years ago. Hard as I tried, I found myself unable to tolerate the cod liver oilafter a short time taking it, I found its burning sensation as I swallowed it so intensely painful I gave up on it. I figured that my body somehow couldnt tolerate it, or wasnt ready for it.
I switched to regular fish oil and kind of forgot about the unpleasant experience with Green Pasture, until last spring, when I was chatting with Corrigan, and he told me about his own search for a cod liver oil he could feel comfortable selling to his customers, many of whom are autistic and thus very sensitive to all manner of foods and supplements. The search was prompted by the dissatisfaction he says lots of people had with the fermented cod liver oil.
Green Pasture manufactures fermented cod liver oil, which is rated the best by WAPF, he says. There are many stories of people having great success in using the product. We initially started selling that, but based on feedback from our highly sensitive customers, we decided to stop selling it and look for an alternative.
His search led his business partner to a Norwegian producer of what they feel to be a superior product, a fresh cod liver oil, but also produced using an ancient technique. He has been making that available, to what he says is rave reviews from his customers.
But it also led him to conclude that the whole notion of fermenting cod liver oil is misguided. You cannot ferment cod liver oil. Oil does not contain any sugars/starches, which are required for the friendly bacteria to grow.
The Green Pasture practice of placing cod livers in a vat and letting them sit for six months doesnt lead to fermentation, but rather to rotting, he contends.
Green Pasture fired back at the upstart. Last March, on his sites blog, Wetzel said, We have received many calls on the subject of new cod liver oils from Norway described as Virgin, Extra Virgin etc .These oils are not new but the marketing activity is new as the industry is attempting to re-born the perception. A lengthy followup suggested the new oils were processedalways a loaded term.
The online debate over cod liver oil seems to have gotten its start nearly two years ago, when a young mom posted on her blog about her own difficulties with Green Pasture cod liver oil, and previewing the non-fermented cod liver oil promised by Corganic. That post prompted more than 200 comments, including one from a WAPF member who stated: You are a brave woman! FCLO (fermented cod liver oil) is such the rage for members of the WAPF. I’m a serious member myself, and yet, taking fermented cod liver oil has been a great challenge. We have 2 bottles of plain in the fridge with very little out of them. I can’t tell you how glad I am to get this post. It gives me hope that we can take a good version of cod liver oil.
From that post, the debate has raged on and off. There was even a discussion on Facebook a couple months back in which someone inquired as to whether anyone was aware of how the deceased popular nutritionist, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, felt about Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil. In the back-and-forth that ensued, one person looked up one of his newsletters, in which he said of Green Pasture, It is the only one you can eat, its fermented, it stinks, it will burn your throat and its perfect.
As I said, I dont personally know Dave Wetzel of Green Pasture, but I have chatted with him at enough Weston A. Price Foundation events to know he is a decent man selling a product he and many others truly believe in. In a conversation we had in the last few days, he told me that the fermentation of cod liver oil is more akin to pickles sitting in brine. You control the bacterial breakdown (of the cod livers) with salt.
He readily acknowledges that some people, like me, cant tolerate taking the oil straight, and for that reason he has the oil available in capsules as well. Capsules are our number one seller for a reason. Everyone is different, I cant explain it. It may be a PH thing Some people use warm water to wash it (the cod liver oil) down.
He hesitates when I ask him about the benefits people get from the fermented oil. He is sensitive, as well he should be, to appearing to promote a supplements health benefits, for fear of legal repercussions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But he allows, Tens of thousands of people have changed their health because of his companys cod liver oil.
While Wetzel wont comment specifically, several health care practitioners who use his firms cod liver oil swear by it. Louisa Williams, a California naturopath, says, I have been prescribing the Fermented Skate and Cod Liver Oil for over ten years. It has continually tested superiorly for me energetically (I use a kinesiology-type method called Matrix Reflex Testing) as well as clinically on patients. In contrast, I have tested out the new Rat Fish Oil (from Corganics) that seems to be great when you read the European literature, but sadly it hasnt tested out well in either way in my Bay Area patient population.
Alvin Danenberg, a South Carolina dentist, says he studied the effects of Green Pasture cod liver oil on 13 of his periodontal patients with bleeding gums. In a summary he wrote together with dental health expert Ramiel Nagel, the two state: Patients took Nutrient-Dense Real Food Supplements (consisting of capsules of fermented cod liver oil combined with high vitamin butter oil, fermented skate liver oil, and organic kelp powder) during the course of the day without changing any other eating or lifestyle habits for a total of 30 days. Of the 41 sites examined, all of which demonstrated bleeding-on-probing at the start of the study, 66% demonstrated no bleeding- on-probing at the end of the study.
Im not sure where that leaves me on the matter of fermented cod liver oil. I have great espect peoples own inclinations and experiences as to what works and doesnt work. As with raw milk, some people experience significant health benefits, and others seem not to.
Since I doubt anyone will be able to determine who is right in this struggle (least of all me), I find the outlook of one WAPF insider insightful. He didnt want his name used because the debate has become so polarizing, but he said he felt turned off by what seemed to be Corrigans attack on Green Pasture and Wetzel. Now there is this intense fear and anger about cod liver oil. He says he did some investigating, and found that even during the 1800s, there was conflict over cod liver oilthat one companys oil was better than another.
In todays world of blogs and social media, It has become very divisive. Given all the corporate power arrayed against nutrient-dense food, We shouldnt be fighting each other.
One thing I havent mentioned is money. While I dont think that is what is primarily driving this ever more bitter battle, it is worth noting that cod liver oil is an estimated $7 billion market worldwide, and about $1.5 billion in North America, according to Corrigan. Even on the margins, money can cloud peoples medical and health judgments sometimes. Just ask the drug companies.
In this situation, I think the people really do care about helping others with their knowledge and products. They have spent too much time and effort doing that to suddenly suddenly switch over to being pure money grubbers.
All that being said, it sure would be nice to have some real research on the differences, if any, in health outcomes for the two types of cod liver oil. The big-money research organizations almost certainly arent going to do it, given that cod liver oil can’t be patented. I just worry that positions on the fermented-non-fermented cod liver oil have hardened enough that no one is about to be convinced simply by the logic of the other sides arguments. Maybe even real data wont change anything. But it sure would be nice to see some cooperation toward figuring out what works and what doesnt.
which is what eventually sends millions of people back to big grocery stores. They have the misguided notion that government regulated foods are proven “safe”.
Gayle, I agree….Perhaps because we become so passionate about our choices, we have a tendency to become very protective, and defensive, of our choices as well. It’s a trait of religious fundamentalism, no matter the religion, that there is only one rigid structure that works, and everything else is immoral, misguided, whatever. Even among believers within the same religion (Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism). As you perceptively note, these internal battles can create enough division that the corporate/government control freaks are tempted to use the division as an opportunity to move ahead with their long-term goal of very strictly regulating nutritional supplements (as a way to eliminate competition for prescription drugs). As Mark suggests, we need to be open minded and flexible, especially when it comes to food.
All the above being said, though, I believe we need to remain open minded enough to be able to discuss and debate matters like this that are creating health challenges and questions for many people. I think it was Shelly who questioned why we Americans so value our free speech. I don’t ever want to feel afraid to have candid discussions simply because we are afraid that the corporate and regulatory powers will use our openness as an opportunity to ram through their agenda. Indeed, open and candid communication remains one of their greatest enemies.
By-products from oxidation reactions are also known to be neurotoxic.
Numerous studies from Norway also show that unpurified cod liver oil contain significant levels of heavy metals and PCB. Green Pasture says their oil is not purified. During pregnancy the mother will dump the toxins into the fetus to be stored in the baby’s brain for years to come. This is why the Norwegian government is now strongly recommending that pregnant women (and small children) should not consume sea farmed salmon which is also known to contain environmental toxins.
We ordered a bottle of fermented cod liver oil and had it analyzed by an independent company in Norway. The oxidation level was in the toxic range and it was also likely contaminated by blood protein.
This product has nothing to do with health and well-being unless you believe that eating old and rotten fish is good for you.
Bo Martinsen, MD
Green Pastures has used Mid West Labs to test their fermented cod liver oil for oxidation products. A PDF of the test results is posted here: http://www.greenpasture.org/fermented-cod-liver-oil-butter-oil-vitamin-d-vitamin-a/safety-of-cod-liver-oil/. The test measure they used doesn’t substantiate that the oxidation level was in the toxic range.
This post http://www.greenpasture.org/utility/showArticle/index.cfm?objectID=8939 discusses how their controlled fermentation process differs from the wild fermentation or putrefaction found in traditional cod liver oil manufacturing.
I showed your comment to a sober-minded individual and it was laughed-off for its rather obvious lack of specificity. I was embarrassed.
Dr. Martinsen, would you be so kind as to add-in to your above comment the several details that both, A. common sense suggests, and that, B. common decency requires be included?
By what I see at this URL:
it should be easy for a man of your accomplishments to do that.
I say this with all due respect, and looking forward to, at the very least, the minimum details along the lines indicated in my second paragraph above.
There is more to be said, by me, on this matter, BUT, in my opinion, you are only costing me precious time and enough is enough. Your comment looked significant on the surface.
Anticipating your reply,
Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard
In medicine and nutrition it is very important to differentiate between immediate reactions and long-term consequences. History has shown us time and again that what we thought was safe and sound created unforeseen negative health effects after a while.
Even 50 years ago, who would have thought that smoking was related to cancer and heart disease?
40 years ago scientists created good tasting and stable transfats from marine oils and this would allow the industry to replace creams and butter with supposedly heart healthy partially hydrogenated oils. The FDA gave its blessing by describing transfats as GRAS (generally safe for everyone).
As physician I was even instructed by health authorities to persuade as many people as possible to start using transfat margarines as a basic fat for meal preparations.
Today, however, we know better, but new and equally untested ideas and products that may affect our future health are created every day.
PCB and heavy metals accumulate in fat tissue and their levels in fish are a concern that prompted health authorities worldwide to warn pregnant women not to consume some species.
50% of the cod liver is fat and studies from independent NOFIMA research institute in Norway show that raw (non-purified) cod liver oil contains too high level of PCB for regular human consumption. NOFIMA 33/2013.
It is very difficult to measure actual levels of PCB and some heavy metals in oils but these amounts are never zero and they do not disappear by themselves.
It is therefore lack of insight when Green Pasture states that their oil has no environmental pollutants.
On PubMed you will find more than 2000 articles about PCB and health consequences.
The issue of rancidity of fats is also a very complicated theme.
While nobody will deny that rancid oil is undesirable and animal studies show toxicity, few human studies have evaluated its effects for obvious ethical reasons. But here is a good overview article addressing the problem:
and one clinical trial:
We measured Green Pastures PV value to be around 10.
However, it should be understood that a one time measurement does not tell us whether this value is still on the rise or decrease which also happens to rancid oil.
As a comparison fresh cod liver oil (CLO) has a PV below 0.5 and AV below 3. So Fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) is at least 10 to 20 times more oxidized than fresh oils.
In the following study from University of Oslo FCLO would have been among worse in class compared to other oils.
That said, oxidation by-products are difficult to measure and usually require a combination of techniques. The results will be influenced by presence of blood, pollutants, time of year, and distance from production date.
It is important to understand that rancid oil cannot be restored back to freshness.
Thats why it is important to prevent oxidation in the first place.
So when FCLO is manufactured in presence of air and light and already has a PV value of 10, then we know the oil is rancid.
Another simple test is that fresh cod liver or cod liver oil has no fishy taste or smell what so ever and will not result in gastrointestinal discomfort. So when Green Pasture says that 20% react to their oil and people have to be taught how to swallow the liquid to overcome the bad taste, what more do we need to know?
Another striking value of their tested oil is the amount of free fatty acids.
FCLO contains around 200 times the value that comes with fresh oil.
Circulating free fatty acids in the blood is important in glucose metabolism and disturbances are related to organ damage, obesity and diabetes:
I am completely shocked when Green Pasture compares fermentation of carbohydrates/ sugar (vinegar) with putrefaction of liver tissue.
But I will give credit to one aspect of FCLO.
It is commendable to try to preserve the rich nutrient content in cod liver oil,
But this alone cannot justify consuming FCLO when it is at the same time polluted (not purified) and rancid.
Thank you very much.
Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard
Rosita Real Foods spent years coming up with an all natural solution.
As there is no way to reverse oxidation, Rosita takes great care in preventing oxidation throughout the entire process. Also, Rosita utilizes a natural method of dealing with organic contaminants which does not utilize heat or chemicals.
The test results for Rosita EVCLO have consistently come back with very low levels of contaminants, and are fully compliant with stringent European Commission and WHO rules on environmental pollutants.
For more information regarding how Rosita solves the both of these issues, please visit:
He also sells cookies and chocolate made with purified Norwegian cod liver oil.
His website has a free ebook about “The Rancid Truth About Fish Oil” in which he rightfully describes some fears about
highly processed encapsulated fish oils.
It is critical that the reader understand that Dr. Martinsen’s perspective is biased because he both sells fish oil, and his negative
comments about “FCLO” are completely false and misleading because his research and accusations are based on evidence about how encapsulated conventionally processed fish oils are toxic. The commercially available fish oil in capsules are a far cry from the traditionally
made fish oil produced by Green Pasture’s. And the PV values which he claims are too high in Green Pasture’s is also false. The study he sites (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3118035/) lists PV values from a variety of commercially available fish oils. Their values range from “1.0410.38.” Green Pasture’s on their website posted a recent test result listing their PV value’s of 3.7 and 4. The average value in the cited study is “3.61”
While more science and research should be done, saying industrially refined heated fish oils are the same as Green Pastures
raw fish oil is silly.
This video discusses the PV value in Green Pasture’s Cod Liver Oil.
Readers should also note that most comments in the blog are by people who sell cod liver oil, such as Daniel and Archie.
I looked around but it seemed like Green Pastures was the only company selling this type product. Since my doctor specifically told me to get fermented cod liver oil I went ahead and ordered from the Green Pastures website. Shipping turned out to be $15! I run a mail-order business from home and I know the most this will cost to pack and ship will be $5. I just feel like Green Pastures really, really gouges people. I try not to get so made about it but they obviously feel like they have no competition to be able to gouge people on postage by a factor of 300%.
I have done some more looking around and it seems that Corganic produces a comparable product in that it makes the cod liver oil without heat and without adding vitamins back in after destroying the original content. I am pleased to see that and I think that is needed, because Green Pastures is gouging people on postage for starters. Green Pastures is also deceptive about the 60 day supply of the capsules. Look at the dose for the oil (2gm) and then look at the dose for the capsules (1gm). So, obviously they are being deceptive in that you dont have a 60 day supply when you compare it to the regular oil.
I havent tried the Corganic product yet, but I plan to. I also plan to give them a free webpage so that other people can see that they do have an alternative choice.
This article was about the 2 companies competing with each other and some controversy about it. I will say that my experience with Green Pastures makes me question their honesty given their business practices.
You can get GP on amazon. Iwas surprised how expensive Corganic is and they also charge 15 for shipping!
as for “gouging” … that’d be moi. About a decade ago, when I got on the forums to do with REAL MILK, I took a shellacing from one particular critic = K. C., Idaho’s dairy princess for 1966 = who relentlessly ranted I was “gouging” by charging [ then ] $12 per gallon, while she was selling it for $2. Before our Home on the Range cowshare was run out of biz. we demanded, and GOT, $20 per gallon … in recycled glass, delivered to the Big City, 60 miles from the farm. I boasted “why not the best?” … we had the most expensive REAL MILK, in the world. And the free market agreed with me, proving my point that that’s what it took to motivate everyone in the supply chain. Even the bloody govt. parasites predators got every single tax due, on what they deemed “illegal”.
Dave Weitzel and his team pioneered production of X-Factor butter oil, when no-one else had even heard of it. Now thousands of people … including thyself … are better off for his genius. People like you who quibble about business practices are [ typically ] crypto-commies … who haven’t got 2 clues to rub together about what it takes to run a successful business enterprise
Your post exemplifies the attitude of the self-centred, spoiled-rotten ingrate modern consumer = kvetching about a few bucks, for the best stuff in the world. What’s good health worth, Rodney?
The Principle? … you’ve lost me. the principle is : in the (so-called) Free Enterprise system, people can charge what they want. You got a problem with that?
I suspect you’re an internet troll … putting us all on with a Rodney Dangerfield impression, leading to his trademark punchline : “I just don’t get no respect !” :
It’s more than a bit curious why someone wouldn’t take his bleat to the company with whom he’s – ostensibly – got a beef … yet exert the energy to post it on an unrelated website = this one. Then! boast about being so vindictive about a trivial few bucks’ difference in the shipping, that you’ll go to the trouble of setting up a webpage to tell the universe about it. Rodney Rodney Rodney … there ARE moore important things on which to expend your time+energy
that is ; unless you’re some kinda saboteur, sent-in to spoil Green Pastures’ reputation?
from 30 years’ political activism, my ( un-solicited ) diagnosis, is : some other, bigger internal conflict is what’s going on inside your head. You’ll be ‘way better off if you figure out what’s really bothering you, than displacing it here …
Green Pastures has a world-class product ; it’s worth every penny. Not only are they healing people, they’re pioneering the science of how to use skim milk to restore pastures ; healing the land.
Just reading this now — hmmmm, a host of questions.