Last May, multiple photos and videos appeared on social networks that showed Internet users drinking jars of a black liquid, smearing their faces and feet with a black paste, or immersing babies and dogs in tubs of black water.
The substance in question is a product marketed by the Canadian company Black Oxygen Organics (BOO) as fulvic acid, a compound derived from decomposing plants extracted from a peat bog in the province of Ontario. The company sold it for $ 110, plus shipping, and advertised it on its website as “the final product and the smallest particle of ancient organic decay.” “Anyone of any age can take it, and also animals”the ad stated, noting that ‘miracle mud’ has many benefits, including improved brain function, heart health and elimination of toxins.
Meanwhile, multiple posts on dozens of Facebook groups, created and overseen by BOO marketers, promised that, beyond cosmetic applications, the product can cure everything from autism to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease to coronavirus. .
I saw the first posts in May. People drinking jars of black liquid, slathering black paste on their bodies, dipping their babies and dogs in it. They were ads for BOO, short for Black Oxygen Organics. BOO is dirt. You could buy 4.5 ounces of it… for $ 110 plus shipping. pic.twitter.com/9P0H4RguSh
– Brandy Zadrozny (@BrandyZadrozny) December 2, 2021
Black Oxygen Organics products could not be purchased in stores, but were marketed by individual salespeople who, theoretically, profited both from their own sales and from the sales of the salespeople they had recruited. It is a type of business with a model of descending and increasing profit known as ‘multi-level marketing’ or ‘MLM’, which is why critics have labeled BOO and similar companies as pyramid scams.
An incredible success in the midst of the pandemic
By late summer, Black Oxygen Organics’ online advertisements had reached millions of netizens and the product was sold in quantities that surprised even its own executives, although the businessman behind the company has been selling clay in various forms for 25 yearsvideo of the meetings recently obtained by NBC News, which conducted an investigation, shows.
In a Zoom call viewed by the outlet, BOO’s vice president of business development Ron Montaruli told distributors in September that the company had acquired 21,000 salespeople and 38,000 new customers. In the last six months, sales had skyrocketed from $ 200,000 a month to nearly $ 4 millionadded.
This skyrocketing rise has an explanation: different social media groups of alternative health seekers and skeptics of covid vaccines provided a good audience and customer base for a new kind of ‘show medicine’.
Elevated levels of lead and arsenic
However, success came at a price. The rise of Black Oxygen Organics, as well as other MLMs on the Internet, sparked criticism from activists, who created groups on Facebook to raise awareness about what they describe as predatory practices by MLM companies and have organized campaigns to disrupt specific businesses.
The activists infiltrated the BOO community, registering as sellers and attending sales meetings, then informing the group of what they had seen and urging its members to file official complaints with the US Federal Trade Commission. . and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Furthermore, they discovered that the bog from which BOO’s mob came seemed to be bordered by a landfill, So they sent samples of the product to laboratories for analysis.
In turn, the health authorities of Canada and the United States have also taken measures against BOO in recent months, initiating withdrawals and product retentions at the border. Thus, the US FDA warned this Friday that “consumers who have purchased Fulvic Care powder and tablets from Black Oxygen Organics should immediately stop using the products“and throw them away, as they contain” elevated levels of lead and arsenic. “
“Continued exposure to high levels of these metals can lead to serious health risks and can affect people or animals of any age or state of health, “the government agency reported, stressing that this” can be especially harmful to vulnerable populations, such as infants, young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, other people with chronic health problems and The domestic animals”.
Last week, the company reported that closed definitively. “It is with great regret that we must announce the immediate closure of Black Oxygen Organics,” read an email received by customers. Details in the note were scant, but Black Oxygen executives and employees offered an explanation at Zoom meetings. According to the president of BOO, Carlo Garibaldi, the company managed to overcome complaints from the Federal Trade Commission, seizures from the FDA, recalls from Health Canada (the Canadian government body responsible for public health) and what they consider the mafia online. But the “fatal blow” came when their online distributor sidelined them as customers, he added.
The announcement marked the apparent end of one of the most successful companies that have jumped on the train of interest in direct and online alternative medicines: oils, supplements, herbs, elixirs and so-called immunity-boosting superfoods that Despite widespread concern about their efficacy and safety, they constitute a loosely regulated multi-billion dollar industry.
Now, BOO’s future is uncertain. Tens of thousands of bags of products remain in warehouses, according to company executives, but sellers are unlikely to receive orders, refunds or commissions. “The federal lawsuit will continue,” said Matt Wetherington, a lawyer representing four Georgia BOO buyers who filed a lawsuit against the company in November, claiming they negligently sold a product with “dangerously high levels of heavy metals. Toxic “, which caused physical and economic damage.
Who is the ‘man of the mud’?
The creation of Black Oxygen Organics was the brainchild of Marc Saint-Onge, a 59-year-old businessman from the Canadian town of Casselman, reports NBC News. In various interviews, Saint-Onge describes himself as an orthotherapist, naturopath, kinesitherapist, ‘reiki’ teacher, holistic physician, herbalist, and aromatherapist. He recently noted on a podcast that in 1989 Canadian authorities they accused him of practicing medicine without a license and fined $ 20,000. “Then my clinic went underground,” he added.
The businessman has been selling mud since the early 1990s. According to a 1996 article in The Calgary Herald, Health Canada forced him to recall an early version of its mud product, because it was marketing it to treat arthritis and rheumatism without no evidence to substantiate his claims.
He then started selling mud baths under another label, and continued this activity until he found a method to make his dream come true, “a way to do a little secret extraction” so that the mud dissolves in the water, he said. In 2015, with the founding of his company NuWTR, which would later become Black Oxygen Organics, Saint-Onge had finally invented a mud that people could drink, he said. The following year, he began to sell himself as a business ‘coach’, and on his personal website he bragged about his worth: “I am selling bottled mud”. “Let me teach you to sell anything,” added the self-promotional message.
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