Gordon Freemen of Cedar Rapids knows that flax seed doesn’t cure cancer.
But that didn’t stop his company, Iowa Select Herbs, from pitching the product to consumers as “preventing, curing, and treating a number of diseases and conditions. Everything from cancer to diabetes to constipation to heart conditions to arthritis.”
Freeman told The Des Moines Register this week that those claims were posted to his company’s website without his knowledge. “Another individual that I had working on my website put those things in there, thinking that was going to help sales,” he said.
But Freeman certainly knew of the claims by April 2014, when the Food and Drug Administration sent him a certified letter questioning their legality. The FDA also questioned the company’s claims that its Papaya Leaf Extract — just $379 per gallon — “slows cancer growth.”
And yet, five weeks later, Freeman appeared in a glowing news segment on KCRG-TV, promoting the papaya extract’s ability to “bring the platelet count up” in cancer patients. Iowa Select Herbs, the news anchor reported, was spreading its “healing power all over the world,” and was the nation’s No. 1 processor of papaya leaf extract.
By law, the FDA can exercise very little oversight of herbal and dietary supplements, but by claiming therapeutic value for its products, Iowa Select Herbs was essentially promoting its products as non-approved drugs. As a result, the federal government is now suing the company, seeking a court order to prevent it from selling “misbranded drugs.”