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In our previous column, we reported on the Noni craze, and challenged Morinda, Inc., a multilevel company headquartered in Linden, Utah, USA, for its apparent unsubstantiated, reckless and irresponsible claims in its promotions that Tahitian Noni Juice was a cure-all "food supplement."

Among the diseases the company advertised Noni Juice was a cure for, or good for, included athlete's foot, obesity, depression, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, hemorrhoids, cancer, and a host of other ailments. This is reminiscent of the Snake Oil peddled around by charlatans more than a hundred years ago as a cure-all miracle substance and people consumed it like hotcakes. Morinda, Inc. obviously preys on the ignorance and trust of the unsuspecting public, making it possible for the company to rake in tens of millions of dollar annually in revenues from the sale of Noni Juice and related items.

In Finland, the National Food Administration has "banned the importation, exportation, trade stocking, offering, and all other supplying, of the juice marketed under the name Noni." We also learned that the Attorneys General of Arizona, California, New Jersey and Texas have launched a multi-state assault on Morinda, Inc. Other states are expected to follow suit and other countries will soon wise up, I am sure.

As we have alluded to in our previous column on Noni, there were no scientific evidences, and there are still none to this date, to support the assertions of Morinda, Inc. that Noni Juice is safe, has therapeutic actions on the multitude of diseases the company listed, and that there are no serious side effects. These positive declarations are scientifically unsubstantiated and the testimonials, anecdotal at best.

If Morinda claims Noni Juice has curative powers, and it has done this openly, then it should be considered a drug, and not a food supplement. And if it is a drug, then it should be regulated under the strict standards for evaluation of drugs, pass "the tests" and first be approved by the Philippine Bureau of Food and Drug and the US Food and Drug Administration, before Noni is allowed to be marketed and sold in the Philippines and in the United States. Noni Juice has not been approved by either.

This author communicated with a major Noni sales distributor in the United States to inquire if bleeding in the stomach and bleeding in the brain had been reported by, or to, Morinda, Inc. as complications of Noni ingestion, since we were informed a couple of months ago by three medical specialists in Cebu of separate incidents involving three patients they later leaned were drinking Noni Juice. The Noni distributor, who emailed me a few days after my initial contact with her, reported that their medical consultants were not aware of any bleeding complication of Noni Juice. Evidently, even the Morinda medical experts, who, incidentally, are paid employees or endorsers of Noni, did not know everything essential to know about Noni. Why? Because Morinda, Inc. apparently has no scientific studies to show that Noni does or does not cause bleeding in the gut or in the brain! Can Noni, after being ingested for two, three or five or more years, cause kidney shut down? Liver shut down? Cancer? What are the eventual long term serious side effects? No one knows. Not even Morinda, Inc.

In effect, what Morinda, Inc. is selling to the trusting public is a time bomb waiting to explode, unless they modify their promotion and claims. People yearn for hope, well-being and longevity, and are willing to try almost anything to find that elusive fountain of youth. Morinda, Inc. obviously saw this as an opportunity to embark on a most lucrative endeavor, and took advantage of people who are vulnerable. With its multi-million dollar marketing strategy, including tempting monetary incentives to "distributors and dealers," the company made a "believer" out of countless number of people, hundreds of distributors and dealers, and some of them, I am sad to say, are people who should know better but who were nonetheless blinded by the glitter of gold.

A generic rule of morals in business: To rob people of their hard earned money for a product that is not effective but one that does not cause harm to the buyer is bad enough, but to defraud them by selling them a substance that is not only without genuine therapeutic value but one that even has potential serious side effects is unconscionable and criminal.

The governments of some European countries and of the United States have taken their initial steps to protect the health and pocketbook of their citizenry. The next question is obvious. When will our government, our legislators in Congress, the Bureau of Food and Drug, Health Department, Justice Department, and our provincial and city governments seriously step in and implement the appropriate laws we now have to protect our people from this, and from other unscrupulous entrepreneurs, victimizing the Filipinos?

What kind of leaders we have, what their priorities are, and how they value the life, health and well-being of every Filipino, will determine the seriousness of their response to this epidemic of fraud and deception against our people. Their true color will come out and will be evident soon enough. In the meantime, while we pray for their intercession, let's not hold our breath.

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.