Thursday, August 24, 2017

MLMSkeptic Investigates: Why is Valentus illegal in the UK? (it's the ingredients)

Recently, it was all over the news (cite 1) (cite 2) (cite 3) that former finalist for Miss England and FHM model Charlotte Thompson was "busted" selling 'slimming coffee' and got a visit from the UK Trading Standards Officers and told to stop her business.  She went online to vent. But what you won't find in these news articles is WHY did Trading Standards make a visit to her home?

MLMSkeptic investigates this little conundrum, by exploring what Valentus did in the aftermath passing blame, then check the sources from Valentus itself, and the statements by Ms. Thompson, then checking the relevant UK laws and interpretations, to see if there is ANY hope for Valentus, in UK, and in rest of Europe.

Recently, when forced to address the issue, Valentus corporate "Director of International Registration", Terry Recknor, gave a webinar.  Ms. Recknor initially blamed Ms. Thompson for spamming thousands of people, implying that was the reason for the visit from Trading Standards, but she soon dropped this bomb:
What you need to understand is, the products technically are illegal because we’re not registered yet.
This seems to imply that as soon as Valentus registered their products in the UK, then there would be no more problems. In the meanwhile, there are suggestions that recruitment in UK and rest of Europe are continuing as if nothing was wrong, despite warning from Ms. Thompson that dealing in Valentus is apparently illegal.

So, what is the truth? Let's investigate first, what does UK Trading Standards actually do?  In the case of their visit to Ms. Thompson, it is to offer:

  • Business advice: Trading standards offer a range of business advice and enforcement policies for all traders and businesses. These range from issues regarding licensing to consumer protection laws.

So presumably, when you combine the various statements given by Ms. Thompson, Ms. Recknor, and explanations, one should conclude that

  • Valentus SlimRoast coffee needs to be registered in UK
  • Lack of registration is a violation of consumer protection laws
  • Ms. Thompson's spam alerted Trading Standards to let her know

But is this true?  Searching UK Food Laws (Food Safety Act 1990, Food Standards Act 1999, and Food Hygiene Regulations 2006) brought up nothing about registering coffee or similar drink mixes and such.  There had to be a different reason.

Which brings us back to "consumer protection", and what other areas does that cover. This was made clear at a different Trading Standards page:

We make sure that people are not misled by claims, prices, descriptions and other selling techniques used by traders when they are selling goods and services.

As it wasn't about registration, let us investigate whether Valentus made any misleading claims. But what constitutes misleading claims under UK law? As SlimRoast is about weight loss, I googled "weight loss claim UK", and that brought me to Advertising Standard Authority, or and their guidance on slimming guidelines for the press (PDF).

On page 3 was a list of unacceptable claims, from which I quote:

Unacceptable claims
Claims that products can, for example, boost metabolism, inhibit dietary fat absorption, melt fat, soak up fat, break down fat, suppress appetite, block fat etc, are almost always unproven and are likely to break the Code. They may also be medicinal claims. Further advice can be sought from the MHRA (     
CAP has seen no evidence that products containing the following can assist in weight loss: Aminopyline, Citrus Aurantia, Chitosan, Chromium Picolinate, CLA, Garcinia Cambogia, Guarana Extract, L-Carnitine, Lecithin, Ribose.

Did Valentus Make Unacceptable Claims?

Well, let's go check Valentus SlimRoast ingredients, shall we? So we have a basis for comparison. Strangely, an ingredient list was NOT available easily. It took me several bits of browsing to find the active ingredients hidden in the "health and safety FAQ", which I've taken a screenshot:

Valentus products contain Garcinia Cambogia, L Carnitine, and Chromium (picolinate)
as per, a Valentus website. 
If you compare it to the "unacceptable claims" list on the ASA website earlier, all three ingredients: Garcinia Cambogia, L-Carnitine, and Chromium (picolinate), according to CAP, have NO proven effect in weight loss, and thus any claims by Valentus that they can help lose weight are unacceptable claims.


Based on these easily found guidelines, it is clear that Valentus SlimRoast coffee is illegal, and will remain illegal in the UK for the foreseeable future unless it incorporates ingredients that are actually PROVEN to promote weight loss.

However, what is far more troubling, is that Valentus corporate, via Ms. Racknor, had engaged in a misinformation campaign hoping to divert attention from its illegal nature, implying that all it takes is for the business to register the products (with whom?) in UK to resolve the problem, when the problem stems from the very NATURE of the product.

Makes you wonder what ELSE are they hiding, doesn't it?

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