I began selling my first products on amazon around 2015. They were a tamanu oil and shortly after a manuka oil. Spending so much time researching essential oils and essential oil suppliers, I began to see that not all was what it seemed. I found out how much these oils cost in bulk, and how much they would retail for. Researching the price of real argan oil , for example. it did not take me long to realize most of the argan oils online were not actually argan oil. Given how much it cost to buy from the manufacturer it was obvious it was impossible, given the price.
I knew how much the real essential oils cost, so I knew many of the ones for sale could not possibly be the real thing, because at the price they were selling there was no way they could make a profit if it was a real oil. Only a cheap fake oil could return a profit at those prices. But just to be sure I bought several and sent them to the same lab that tests my own oils – a very reputable ISO accredited lab in Canada that specializes in essential oil testing. Those test results solidified what I had already suspected. They were fake.
Here's a lab report on a sample of the top selling tamanu oil on amazon that I sent in for testing. The image is small so I'll paste the lab analyst's conclusion here: "This sample does not feature the expected fatty acids profile for tamanu oil, with somewhat low palmitic and stearic acid contents. Literature and historical samples suggest that both fatty acids should typically represent more than 12% of the total fatty acids each."
The lab technician is basically saying that the sample does not meet the reference profile for tamanu oil; ie its a fake oil.
I tried to find a decent definition of lip service. All I could find was this:
insincere expression of friendship, admiration, support, etc.; service by words only.
To me it means statements spoken or written, without anything to back them up.
If you have ever seen a listing online for a supplement or some food item like a super food, you’ve probably seen it written somewhere that the product is “3rd party tested” or “lab tested”. I’ve spent many hours thinking about this. What do people think when they see “3rd party tested” or “lab tested”? Do they assume the product is legit? What do they think “3rd party tested” means? Do they assume the seller is telling the truth? Do people think there is some official authority somewhere that checks to make sure that a 3rd party test has been done on the product? I don’t know what people think when they see that. But I can tell you what I’ve learned about it over a year of research and talking with various experts on the subject.
Once I tell you what I’ve learned, you may have a different reaction the next time you see it.
“3rd party tested” or “lab tested” doesn’t mean a whole lot.
When I first thought about branching out into super foods, I knew I wanted to make authenticity the priority. I wondered if the deceit that I had found in the essential oils space also existed in the supplements and superfoods space. I began by talking to various experts in the industry – scientists and experts with experience on the manufacturing side as well as those on the laboratory and testing side. It didn’t take long to find out this space was no different.
For those that assume there is an authority that checks up on every product that goes to market, this isn’t exactly the case. There is such an authority – it’s called the US Food and Drug administration, or FDA. But the FDA is limited in its power to police millions of products. They simply don’t have the resources to check up on every supplement that comes to market. While they do have rules, they cannot enforce them on every product. And the rules they do have might surprise some. While it’s true 3rd party testing is required, the required testing is not thorough. Take a turmeric supplement for example. The product is often labeled Turmeric with a small amount of black pepper for absorption. You would think since the product is Turmeric, the testing would be required on the turmeric, since that is the name of the product and since turmeric makes up the majority of the product. However, testing only has to be done on one of the ingredients in the product. A seller could pass the requirement by testing only the black pepper, and skipping any testing of the turmeric. A seller could meet the testing requirements by adding in a small amount of legitimate black pepper but put in little to no actual turmeric.
In fact, a seller could skip this testing all together. The FDA only checks a supplement if they get a complaint, after the product has already been on the market. They don’t check for this testing before it goes to market.
Moreover, these sellers that put “3rd party tested” never have the test there for you to see. You have no idea if this test has even been done. And you have no idea what exactly they tested, or who did the testing for that matter ( a proper lab has to have certain credentials in order for the test to be deemed appropriate).
Putting “3rd party tested” on the product listing is nothing more than lip service.
The end result of this is a market rampant with fake, adulterated products. But don’t take my word for it. There’s plenty of proof out there. I’ve gathered just some of it for you here:
Here's a piece about olive oil.
I decided from the beginning that my brand would be the polar opposite of all the deceit I was witnessing. I wanted to bring products to market that I felt good about selling. Could I have joined the crowd and also sold fake products? I certainly could have. And I’ll tell you it would be far easier and I would be making far more money if I did. Fake products are always easier to sell. They cost a fraction of the price and they are far more abundant. And all the testing that I do is very expensive and adds huge complexity to the product lead time ( how long it takes to bring it to market). So why do I choose this path? Simply put, it just makes me feel better. And if I was buying these products, it’s what I would want for myself, because if I’m taking something or putting something on my skin, I want to know what it is, and the seller’s word is not enough for me. I want proof, not lip service.
This concept would become the cornerstone of my brand. That is:
- Only sell a product that I would want to use myself.
- Only sell products that I would offer to my own friends and family. Products where I could look them in the eye and say without any guilt “this is the most authentic product you can get.”
- Only sell products that I knew were the real thing, proven by the most comprehensive lab testing available.
- Not ask people to take my word for it, because a seller can say anything they want in order to sell more product.
- Instead, always provide all lab testing reports on all product pages, in plain view so people can see for themselves that the products are authentic.
I want shoppers to be more critical of what they are buying, and to not assume that what is written on the label is actually what is in the bottle. To summarize:
- You can’t assume that what is listed on the bottle and in the ingredients is actually what is in the bottle and in the ingredients. Adulteration and deceit is widespread and rampant.
- “3rd party tested” and “lab tested” don’t mean anything if the seller does not show you the actual tests and explain to you the test results. They may not have tested it at all, and even if they did, they could have done the minimum testing required.
- Only buy from a seller that performs comprehensive 3rd party testing on their products and shows you the lab reports on the product listing. PUR360 does this for every one of its products.
Thanks for reading.