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A Warning From the Vitamin Fact-Finding Project: "Tell Lies and Die"
By Vitamin Fact-Finding Committee

This article was sent to stores selling vitamins by a group of retailers and private citizens who are concerned about the quality of so-called health supplements that are being foisted on an unsuspecting public.

Recently, someone almost died because a vitamin company from Arizona released a selenium product onto the market that was so sloppily made as to contain potentially lethal dosages. Luckily, it was recalled in time. If it hadn't been, our now struggling health food business could be dying.

We're an anonymous group of health food store owners/private citizens who are through putting up with lies. We must protect ourselves and our businesses. Because, clearly FDA is letting us hang ourselves. NNFA (National Nutritional Food Association) has been voiceless and impotent too long. It appears the trade magazines are interested in quality only insofar as it affects sales. Everybody's gotten so success-oriented, so numbers oriented, we've totally forgotten how we got to be successful in the first place by selling better food, better supplements than people could find in drug stores; by offering better service, better knowledge; by refusing to compromise, by refusing to sell junk. Once upon a time ... but then came the boom of the sixties and boom-fad seventies, and oddball integrity started to give way to the greed of selling liquid protein, starch blockers, and live forever remedies.

What was once a quality-committed curiosity has become for many of our customers a bunch of conflicting illusions because our ideal of representing quality has been replaced by mostly the intent to "make it." And most of us haven't had the guts to put responsibility for our own well-being back where it belongs back on ourselves.

We've let the manufacturers determine what sells in our stores and have become not only beholden, but half-willing victims. We've gotten just fat enough to get lazy.

We used to care. We asked straight questions; if the product looked wrong, we did not carry it. And we had the guts to inform our customers not to buy such a product. They may have shaken their heads but came to respect us. They came back and told their friends about our honesty. Well, to many, we're still respected, but not always honest, and we all know it. More and more we've become like those we resent most, those big ole stores out there that will sell anything and everything.

Want to know something though? For the most part, the labels in those big ole houses of porn food are more legal, more honest than ours. At least Theragram and Flintstones proclaim their junky ingredients straight forwardly. We sell stuff that not only hides junk but then lies about it. So, folks, we do not have to fear outside competition nearly as much as we do our own lack of courage and commitment.

So, this is one little lone beacon: hopefully it will set off others of you to respond and get responsible (for your business and your ethics).

A while back, one of our boldest, most successful, most outspoken vitamin companies started using "love" to sell products. That and good hand-outs and assays were used to convince the consumer of the merit of their products. We, at our store talked with a few others because we were not satisfied with their claim of no fructose, no sucrose chewables. So we pooled some money and tested the product and others, and the results were distressing.

We compared our assays to brand new ones from the manufacturer. Their assays, like their labels, failed to accurately disclose sweeteners. We also discovered that "love" can be a lie.

We didn't mean to start a campaign. We just wanted to check a suspicion. We called our company rep and were always stonewalled with "It's all on the assays." Well, their assays misrepresented the products in question. It made us angry to think that we were selling a very expensive product that was $3.00 drugstore quality with fraudulent labeling to boot.

We checked with the FDA, USDA and learned a lot. Companies are not complying with regulations unless they put all ingredients on the label. Without that compliance, the manufacturers make liars, frauds, and cheats out of us. We are putting on notice our "precious no-joke pill companies" to clean up their act, go full disclosure, because we will be back, we will be checking. Meanwhile, we will stop selling their lies. We can't afford to promote these products. It will affect our pocketbooks, our hearts, and our futures.

We do not give a damn how successful, how big, how strong, how threatening a company may be. If they have built their business by manipulating us with fancy hype, eventually we will find out and our customers will find out. This is an opportunity for us to return to our original course. We can do something now or we can wait till some authority gets wind of the lies and attacks the health food stores.

Our group is turning our support to companies with fully legal, honest labels, and we would hope that all companies would choose to label their products honestly, , fairly, , and intelligibly. . With commitment and integrity alive and well in our stores, real trust can again grow, , and our business will flourish as a natural by-product of our commitment to superior standards and integrity. .

We do not take any self-righteous pride in this vigilante role; it just became clear to us that if we do not play by the rules of ethics, we won't make it. And wouldn't big business and government be happy to find out that we are no different than they are willing to sell our souls for a buck and a lie.

The basic issue at stake here is our continued ability to operate freely in a free marketplace. We will continue to exercise our responsible freedom of speech. If the truth hurts us temporarily, or scalds one of our fast and loose suppliers, better a little short-term pain than the terminal disease of covered deceptions. Come on, suppliers, get with the natural healing method. Let your postulant untruths feel the air and the light of day. We'll all be healthier in the long run. And fellow retailers, just remember careless or unscrupulous manufacturers can always jump to the waiting mass market if their actions blow us up. Where will we go?

IF YOUR PRIMARY INTENT IS TO SURVIVE, YOU PROBABLY WON'T. IF YOUR INTENT IS ON SERVICE, YOU WILL FLOURISH.

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