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HOUSTON — Days after the Food and Drug Administration warned against people buying and ingesting products being marketed as “miracle mineral solutions” that can cure autism, similar products were still being found on Walmart and Amazon’s websites.
Amazon did remove listings for two books endorsed by religious leader Jim Humble, “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win,” that claim to contain cures for autism. The move follows Facebook’s efforts to limit the availability of anti-vaccination and other pseudoscientific material.
This month, the FDA released information urging people not to buy or use these “mineral” products; when they’re mixed according to the package directions, a strong chemical used as industrial bleach is produced.
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The products are being marketed on social media “as a remedy for treating autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and flu, among other conditions,” according to the FDA and have not been approved for any use.
Late last week, Amazon.com was still selling a product called Biotraxx Classic for water purification and disinfection, while Walmart.com was selling “Mineral Solution Water Purification Drops.” The drops did not provide a recommended use for the product, but included in its description the phrase “as described by Humble,” a reference to the man credited with “discovering” the effects of “MMS” products.
As of press time, the third edition of Humble’s book “Breakthrough: The Miracle Mineral Supplement of the 21st Century” remained on the Amazon website, as well as a number of books on MMS in English and German.
Amazon didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
When contacted by the Houston Chronicle about the product “Mineral Solution Water Purification Drops” that was listed on Walmart.com, a company spokeswoman said the product page was from a third-party seller and has since been removed from the website.
“We should not have had that item on our website,” said Jaeme Laczkowski, director of corporate communications for Walmart eCommerce. “Walmart is made up of owned items and a large third-party marketplace.”
Walmart.com has up to 75 million products listed, Laczkowski said, and a majority of that is through third-party vendors who apply to join Walmart’s closed marketplace. As soon as Walmart is notified that a product or vendor is violating policy, has been recalled or pulled for FDA concerns, the site administrators “are able to go in and quickly pull it down,” she said.
On the product page, Walmart included a legal disclaimer: “Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.”
The FDA described the product as 28 percent sodium chlorite in distilled water. The product directions instruct people to mix the sodium chlorite solution with a citric acid, like lemon or lime juice, before drinking, according to the FDA. The package sometimes includes a citric acid “activator.”
When the acid or acid activator is added to the solution, the mixture becomes chlorine dioxide, a bleaching agent. Chlorine dioxide is used as a bleach at pulp mills, which make paper and paper products, and in public water-treatment facilities, to make water safe for drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sodium chlorite and chlorine dioxide are active ingredients in disinfectants and “are not meant to be swallowed by people.”
The products are being marketed under these names: miracle or master mineral solution, miracle mineral supplement, MMS, chlorine dioxide (CD) protocol and water purification solution (WPS), among others. Drinking any of these chlorine dioxide products can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and symptoms of severe dehydration, the FDA said.
“The FDA’s drug approval process ensures that patients receive safe and effective drug products. Miracle Mineral Solution and similar products are not FDA-approved, and ingesting these products is the same as drinking bleach. Consumers should not use these products, and parents should not give these products to their children for any reason,” said Dr. Ned Sharpless, FDA Acting Commissioner.
“The FDA will continue to track those selling this dangerous product and take appropriate enforcement actions against those who attempt to evade FDA regulations and market unapproved and potentially dangerous products to the American public.”
Jeremy Kahn, an FDA spokesman, said the regulatory agency does not deal directly with e-commerce websites, and that the FDA typically focuses on the products themselves rather than the sales and distribution of the products. But when the FDA has contacted e-commerce sites in the past about their products, they have removed the products, Kahn said.
“We occasionally do see products on the site that are not approved (by the FDA), and we have a variety of means to address,” he said. “We can communicate with them directly or to an online vendor and manufacturer of the product, which could lead to the removal of a product, but not always.”
It’s not mandatory for companies to remove non-FDA regulated products, Kahn said. But the companies will typically remove products when the health risk is brought to its attention. It’s possible that the company did not know it was selling the product because it’s provided by a third-party vendor, he said.
MMS supporters have touted the concoction’s supposed health benefits for years, and in 2016, Humble’s group Genesis II Church of Health and Healing held a $500-a-person MMS seminar in Houston. Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan later sued the group to stop the sale of the potentially toxic chemical.
In March 2018, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent letters to the CEOs of Amazon, eBay, Newegg, Sears Marketplace and Walmart regarding a report by the Governmental Accountability Office on the availability of counterfeit products on their websites.
The report “documented the ease with which federal investigators were able to purchase counterfeit products through the popular online platforms,” according to a news release.
The GAO found that 20 of 47 products in a sample of “trademarked consumer products, including cosmetics and phone chargers, from third-party sellers on Amazon.com, eBay.com, Newegg.com, Sears Marketplace and Walmart.com, were counterfeit.”
In the letters, Pallone asked what measures were being taken by the companies to vet third-party sellers on their online platforms; how each company blocks and removes counterfeit products; and what kinds of interactions each company has with product manufacturers and law enforcement to address counterfeit issues.
“This finding demonstrates yet another disturbing way consumers could unknowingly buy harmful products in commerce and is consistent with the Food and Drug Administration’s evidence of the higher number of violations associated with cosmetic imports, including the use of banned cosmetic ingredients, microbial contamination, illegal color additives, and high levels of mercury or heavy metals,” Pallone wrote.
Pallone released drafted legislation in 2016 that would give the FDA more regulatory power over cosmetics and personal care products.
Consumers who have purchased these products can file complaints to the FDA at 855-630-2112.
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