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Expo West

Behind the scenes at Natural Products Expo West - A "brutally honest" Health Ranger Review

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles...)
Tags: Expo West, health products, health food

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The Natural Products Expo West trade show was held last weekend in Anaheim, California. I spent the show cruising the floor, interviewing vendors, sampling products and digging up new information to pass along to NewsTarget readers. (By the way, thanks to all the people who said hi to me at the show! It was nice to meet some NewsTarget readers in person.)

If you read the mainstream media, everybody's happy, happy, happy about the show and the industry as a whole, but if you go there yourself and ask questions as an independent, skeptical journalist, you get the rest of the story. And that's what I'll share with you here: A behind-the-scenes look at Expo West. Here's what you'll never read in the mainstream media.

To get started, however, I do have to compliment the New Hope staff and show organizers. Even with some of the grumbling from vendors I'm about to reveal here, the show was, in my opinion, a huge success. It really is a must-see event for anyone in the industry, and the crowds were even thicker this year, meaning there's an increase in public interest in natural products. So kudos to the New Hope folks who put this together. It's no small feat to make the show work.

And now for the rest of the story...

Ahh, the fragrant smell of... cigarettes?

You would think that a hall full of 45,000 people buying and selling natural health products wouldn't smell like an ash try right outside the front door, but you'd be wrong. The predominant smell of the show wasn't essential oils, or rosemary, or fragrance, but rather cigarette smoke. You couldn't escape it.

Smokers surrounded every building with an impenetrable wall of airborne carcinogens. Just walking out of the Hilton hotel became an exercise in respiratory survival, and entering the Expo West show itself required scrambling through a wall of smokers stationed just outside the main entrance doors. Whether you were trying to eat lunch under the sun, catch a taxi or return to your hotel, you were always fighting the cigarette smoke. It even wafted indoors any time someone opened a door to enter or leave the show building.

I inhaled so much smoke at Expo West that I'm pretty sure visiting that trade show was the single most hazardous health experience I've had since last year's show. Sorta funny for a "health" show, huh? But it also just goes to show you how many people are in the industry for the profit, not the health. Some folks will sell you cancer remedies in between puffs on a cigarette.

The solution to all this is simple. Ban smoking on all the sidewalks and walkways, create a designated smoking room in the basement, and make people go there to light up. Now, I'm a big believer in personal freedom, and I don't give a hoot if people go suck on burnt tobacco in their own homes or cars, but when THEIR smoke gets in the way of MY lungs, then I'm going to say something about it. Next year, I might bring a gas mask and have a picture taken in front of the Expo West logo, surrounded by smokers. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

FDA censorship in full swing at Expo West

Many vendors were complaining to me about the FDA censorship at the show. The New Hope group that organized the show actually invites an "FDA Enforcement Officer" to join the show, and they run around the show sampling brochures and making sure nobody makes any "unproven claims" about supplements, herbs, vitamins or even colloidal silver.

The FDA "presence" at the show, of course, is intended to make sure nobody can tell the truth about what natural supplements actually do to prevent and even cure degenerative disease. The point of all this is to keep the public ignorant and make sure there's a huge market for pharmaceuticals and surgery.

Of course, the show organizers will say the purpose of the FDA Enforcement Officer is to make sure nobody gets carried away with outlandish health claims. Because outlandish health claims should be reserved for television ads featuring FDA-approved prescription drugs, you see.

Is Horizon really organic?

The top sponsor of the show was Horizon Organic, the "organic" milk company. It's the same company now being boycotted by the Organic Consumers Association (www.OrganicConsumers.org) for false labeling. Every time I asked a vendor, "What do you think about the integrity of the show sponsors?" I got a huge laugh. Everybody on the show floor knew the top sponsors were a joke. Of course, there were some decent sponsors like Larabar, but they weren't the top-level sponsors with the deepest pockets and greatest visibility.

Wow, look at all these crap products!

Another major complaint I heard from quality product vendors is that so many of the products at the show are made of "crap." Filler, junk ingredients, contaminated raw materials... you name it, I heard somebody mention it. The hoodia industry continues to be largely run by con men (although there are at least four exceptions that will be listed here on NewsTarget shortly), the superfruit juice products continue to be made largely with apple juice (not goji or mangosteen as is loudly proclaimed on the label), and there's a long list of companies with the word "Organic" in their company name who don't even use organic ingredients in their products.

The level of deception in the natural products industry has never been higher. Everybody, it seems, is claiming "all natural" or "organic" even when they're not, and thanks to corporate influence in Washington, the regulations are watered down so much that the terms have practically lost all meaning. Folks like David Bronner at Dr. Bronner's soaps (www.DrBronner.com) have been fighting hard to eliminate fraudulent organic claims from the marketplace, but it's an ongoing battle. (Isn't it funny how the FDA Enforcement Officer at the show will restrict vendors from saying cherries treat arthritis, for example, but have no problem whatsoever with fraudulent claims of organic ingredients? Enforcement is highly selective.)

One solution to this is the upcoming Naturally Occurring Standards Group, or NOSG. (www.NOSG.org) which is working to certify companies as being truly organic, fair trade, natural, etc. But that's another story altogether. Watch for that later on NewsTarget.com.

But until there's a real solution, it's very difficult for quality companies to compete with the huckster companies who sell crap products at organics prices. And don't trust the advertising, either. It seems that the more money a company has for advertising, the crappier their products are. (Which makes sense, actually, because higher margins on crap products leave more money to spend on advertising and sponsorship.)

Truly, some of the best companies I found at the show do no advertising at all and couldn't afford it anyway because they only have a 12% margin on their raw materials. Those are the companies I like to promote, and you'll see me listing a lot of them here in upcoming reviews.

You stuck us in the basement?

Some vendors were grumbling about being stuck in the "basement" of the show -- Hall E, which is downstairs from the main floor. You can't fault New Hope for this, however. The show has simply outgrown the available floor space of the Anaheim Convention Center, and people who rent booths should first check the fine map to see where the booth is before they sign the dotted line. Frankly, I enjoyed Hall E and discovered quite a few outstanding companies there that will be covered in future articles on NewsTarget.com.

What's with the parking problem?

People told me it took them literally two hours to find a parking spot for the show. And then they had to walk two miles on top of that. Parking is a huge problem at Expo West, and there seems to be no real effort to solve it anytime soon. My solution? Change the name to Eco-Expo West and make everybody ride bicycles.

Flee! Flee! It's 3:15!

The Expo West trade show ends at 4:00pm on Sunday. But anxious exhibitors began fleeing the floor as early as 3:15. They started breaking down their booths, madly handing out remaining samples to overloaded trick-or-treaters carrying five bags of goodies, and packing up their literature. I, of course, was still trying to conduct some honest journalism, so I stuck with the plan until closing time. But by 3:45 -- still fiften minutes until exhibitors were supposed to close their booths -- I was stepping over booth parts like walking through a minefield.

Collapsible towers littered the hallways, piles of spilled grain samples were scattered about, and vendors were already stacking crates. The Bob's Red Mill booth actually tied a large red ribbon around the entire 20 x 20 booth, like some kind of police crime scene. The message was clear: Don't you dare step into this space!

I wonder, why was everybody in such a hurry to leave? Perhaps three days of eating lunch by gorging on decidedly NON-healthy food served at the expo made people feel a bit queasy. Good food was so hard to find that I actually ended up snarfing down a BBQ chicken sandwich on white bread. (Yuck!) Don't tell anybody, though. I'm ashamed of the whole episode.

Can't wait for next year!

As crazy as this all sounds, I can't for next year's show. I have a once-a-year tobacco habit known as, "Inhaling at Expo West" and I can't wait to breathe more cigarette smoke into my lungs at next year's show.

And yet, despite all the drawbacks, the show is still a real treat. I enjoy meeting the new vendors and finding out about new products that I can pass along to readers. All the smoke, the taxis, the disorganized Super Shuttle company and the crap products don't bring me down when I'm at Expo West.

But maybe that's because I'm high on raw cacao and maca the whole time, too. Superfoods really do work, and I found a chocolate bar made of 92% cacao. Plus, I munched on Incan Berries the whole time, and brought my own organic macadamia nuts from www.SouthKonaMacs.com (which wasn't at the show). I drank an egg protein breakfast by snarfing down cups of Jay Robb's new egg protein product (www.JayRobb.com) and even ate some dried yacon tuber over at Navitas Naturals (www.NavitasNaturals.com).

So I can't complain, actually. I still had a good time, and I'm glad the show exists. If you're in the health industry, don't miss it. Just try not to inhale.

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About the author:Mike Adams (aka the "Health Ranger") is a best selling author (#1 best selling science book on Amazon.com) and a globally recognized scientific researcher in clean foods. He serves as the founding editor of NaturalNews.com and the lab science director of an internationally accredited (ISO 17025) analytical laboratory known as CWC Labs. There, he was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for achieving extremely high accuracy in the analysis of toxic elements in unknown water samples using ICP-MS instrumentation. Adams is also highly proficient in running liquid chromatography, ion chromatography and mass spectrometry time-of-flight analytical instrumentation.

Adams is a person of color whose ancestors include Africans and Native American Indians. He's also of Native American heritage, which he credits as inspiring his "Health Ranger" passion for protecting life and nature against the destruction caused by chemicals, heavy metals and other forms of pollution.

Adams is the founder and publisher of the open source science journal Natural Science Journal, the author of numerous peer-reviewed science papers published by the journal, and the author of the world's first book that published ICP-MS heavy metals analysis results for foods, dietary supplements, pet food, spices and fast food. The book is entitled Food Forensics and is published by BenBella Books.

In his laboratory research, Adams has made numerous food safety breakthroughs such as revealing rice protein products imported from Asia to be contaminated with toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium and tungsten. Adams was the first food science researcher to document high levels of tungsten in superfoods. He also discovered over 11 ppm lead in imported mangosteen powder, and led an industry-wide voluntary agreement to limit heavy metals in rice protein products.

In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Through the non-profit CWC, Adams also launched Nutrition Rescue, a program that donates essential vitamins to people in need. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.

With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource featuring over 10 million scientific studies.

Adams is well known for his incredibly popular consumer activism video blowing the lid on fake blueberries used throughout the food supply. He has also exposed "strange fibers" found in Chicken McNuggets, fake academic credentials of so-called health "gurus," dangerous "detox" products imported as battery acid and sold for oral consumption, fake acai berry scams, the California raw milk raids, the vaccine research fraud revealed by industry whistleblowers and many other topics.

Adams has also helped defend the rights of home gardeners and protect the medical freedom rights of parents. Adams is widely recognized to have made a remarkable global impact on issues like GMOs, vaccines, nutrition therapies, human consciousness.

In addition to his activism, Adams is an accomplished musician who has released over a dozen popular songs covering a variety of activism topics.

Click here to read a more detailed bio on Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, at HealthRanger.com.

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