Posted 26 January 2015
On the 9 March 2014, CamCheck published, “Albe Geldenhuys of USN, a master scam artist“. This article was picked up by TheHub (a cycling website) which resulted in a flood of visitors to CamCheck, and appears to have reached the attention of Albe Geldenhuys of USN.
USN has posted a response to their Website which states the following (my response follows):
Firstly, credible sports scientists throughout the world agree that approximately 95% of sport supplements (ingredients) either have no proof of efficacy or have not been shown to work. Secondly, as far as I know, there is not a single peer-reviewed study showing that any product of USN has efficacy.
Let us pick USN’s statement apart.
1. “. . . renowned for the author’s malicious views, and his personal vendettas against nutrition brands, and other companies who conduct business outside of the ethical medicines arena.”
Is Mr Geldenhuys arguing that USN is a company who conducts business outside of the ethical medicines arena? This is ambiguous. Many people in the pharmaceutical industry refer to branded medicines as ‘ethical medicines.’ And he is in the pharmaceutical business. But is he perhaps unwittingly conceding that he conducts business outside of an ethical framework?
Mr Geldenhuys offers nothing to support his allegation of my so-called ‘malicious’ intent. Just because I criticise scam products that I become aware of, doesn’t make me malicious – in fact the opposite – I am attempting to protect the consumer from harm, no matter who the seller, or what the product is. I have no personal vendetta but point out the scientific validity of these companies claims. It is called free speech and is valid, as long as my claims and arguments are valid and can be scientifically supported.
Mr Geldenhuys makes a handsome profit from selling these products, I do not earn a cent from pointing out the invalidity of the claims. Mr Geldenhuys makes it clear he has known about me for some time. It is interesting that he has been awfully quiet since March. If the post was ‘defamatory’, why is he only taking ‘action’ now?
Mr Geldenhuys may not be aware of the The Streisand effect – the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.
USN DID change USN’s Fat Block to Fat Binder, then to Waterslim, because of and after ASA rulings. Same ingredient, different name, different claims. USN claimed their 100% Whey powder had 75.1 g of protein per 100 gms of powder but actually contained 62.3 g. What about the nonsense USN “Bio-Field Balance Bracelet” modeled on the Power Bracelet scam?
2. Mr Geldenhuys writes; “For many years, USN has been, and continues to be, the leading advocate in South Africa for safe and effective supplement development, global reach manufacturing, warehousing and ethical retail. USN has been cleared of the assertions referenced within the main body of this article as a course of resulting ASA investigations, where USN has provided sufficient and substantiating evidence to support the research material and product development processes“.
Not actually true. Advertising Sanctions were pending against USN for one particular product: they withdrew the product from the market. Other products were withdrawn or claims amended after complaints were laid with the ASA. The claims made in the body of my posting are accurate, USN simply changed the name and claims of the product as claimed. It is true that in some instances, the complaint against USN was dismissed but this was not necessarily because USN could substantiate the claims, but that the complaint was deficient. And importantly, the majority of USN’s products’ claims have never been scrutinised by the ASA.
USN has NOT “provided sufficient and substantiating evidence to support the research material and product development processes“. At best, they have provided cherry picked evidence that a non-scientific body such as the ASA could evaluate out of context of the whole body of evidence. Not a single highly credible sport scientist will support the claims for most of USN’s products. I am thinking of top South African sport scientists and sports dieticians such as Dr Ross Tucker, Prof Tim Noakes, Prof Mike Lambert, Dr Jon Patricios, Shelley Meltzer, Dr Glen Hageman, Dr Amanda Claassen-Smithers, among others. The defense against an action of defamation would be that the statement is true and for the public benefit, or that it is fair comment on a matter of public interest.
3. Mr Geldenhuys writes: “USN has a complex research and development model, and the raw ingredients as well as the finished products are tested regularly by a third party, independent, internationally recognised and accredited testing laboratory. Products also undergo HFL screening in the UK.”
“. . . complex research and development model . . .” Really?!
Products tested regularly? Remember how USN contaminated products almost ruined two springbok careers? And not exactly as shown as recent as October 2014 where USN 100% Whey was found to be short of claims. Firstly, this is a recent development and I am informed that not every batch of USN product is tested. Worse, this is misleading for no matter how much testing USN undergoes, the main question is this: is there sufficient evidence to support the efficacy claims for all USN products? How about 80%? No. Has a 1% of USN products EVER been tested to see whether the claims are achievable? No. All major sports science bodies throughout the world argue that the claims made for approximately 95% of sports supplements/ingredients are nonsense. Mr Geldenhuys is confusing tests for quality and perhaps hidden banned substances, with tests of efficacy.
4. Mr Geldenhuys writes: “Nutritional information and label claims are made according to the respective laws at the time, and they remain substantiated and correct at the time of print.”
No, not exactly. USN operated in a regulatory vacuum, under the guise of a “complementary medicine”. And I am sure they were aware of ASA regulations but constantly were found at fault. CamCheck started listing ASA complaints after 2011, but ASA complaints were laid against USN products even before that. But no laws sanctioned or gave USN products proper legal status. Now the new draft Complementary Medicine regulation may result in USN’s products being ‘banned’.
5. Mr Geldenhuys writes: “We have initiated the due legal processes necessary to have the allegations removed from www.camcheck.co.za website. We have always been, and continue to be an ethical company, with standards above the industry requirements“.
Mr Geldenhuys wants to squash my (and your) comments – he is the CEO of a company that brought you among other, oxygenated water, USN’s Fat Block product which became Fat Binder after an ASA ruling, and then Waterslim when the ASA ruled against the former name. Same ingredient, different name, different claims. This is a company that brought you a number of other products with dubious claims, and will try to prevent that from being exposed. This is about creating illusions and misdirecting.
Can he prove that all his products have always been produced in accredited facilities or MCC acceptable conditions? No he cannot, we have the evidence that they were not all.
Will he able to counter my claims by contradicting the experts I have mentioned above? Unlikely. Does he want you to know the truth? Absolutely not.