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How a man sold “miracle clay” for 25 years to cure any disease, but in reality it brought him to ruin

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Last May, multiple photos and videos appeared on social media that showed internet users drinking jars of black liquid, coating their faces and feet with black paste, or dipping babies and dogs into jars. black water tanks.

The substance in question is a product marketed by the Canadian company Black Oxygen Organics (BOO) as fulvic acid, a compound derived from decaying plants extracted from a bog in the province of Ontario. The company sold it for $ 110, plus shipping, and advertised it on its website as “the end product and the smallest particle of an ancient organic decomposition.” “Anyone can take it, and so can the animals”the ad said, noting that “miracle mud” has many benefits, including improved brain function, heart health and the elimination of toxins.

Meanwhile, several posts on dozens of Facebook groups, created and overseen by BOO marketers, have promised that beyond cosmetic applications, the product can cure everything from autism to cancer to disease. Alzheimer’s disease with coronavirus. .

Black Oxygen Organics products could not be purchased in a store, but were marketed by individual sellers who theoretically benefited from both their own sales and the sales of the sellers they recruited. It is a type of business with a decreasing and increasing profit model known as “multilevel marketing” or “MLM”, which is why critics have called BOO and similar companies as pyramid scams.

An incredible success in the midst of a pandemic

By the end of the summer, Black Oxygen Organics’ online ads had reached millions of internet users and the product was sold in quantities that even surprised its own executives, although the businessman behind the company. has been selling clay in various forms for 25 years, as shown in videos of the encounters recently obtained by NBC News, which conducted an investigation.

During 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 sellers and 38,000 new customers. In the past six months, sales had climbed from $ 200,000 per month to almost $ 4 millionadded.

This skyrocket has a reason: Different social media groups of alternative healthcare seekers and covid vaccine skeptics have provided good audiences and customers for a new kind of ‘spectacle medicine. “.

High levels of lead and arsenic

However, success has come at a price. The rise of Black Oxygen Organics, along with other internet MLMs, has sparked criticism of activists, who have created groups on Facebook to raise awareness of what they describe as predatory practices of MLM businesses and have organized campaigns to disrupt specific businesses.

Activists infiltrated the BOO community, registering as salespeople and attending sales meetings, then informing the group of what they had seen and urging its members to file formal complaints with the Federal Trade Commission of United States. . and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, they discovered that the bog from which the BOO crowd came seemed to be bordered by a landfill, They therefore sent samples of the product to the laboratories for analysis.

In turn, health officials in Canada and the United States have also taken action against BOO in recent months, initiating withdrawals and detentions of products at the border. Thus, the US FDA on Friday warned that “consumers who have purchased Fulvic Care powder and tablets from Black Oxygen Organics must immediately stop using the products“And throw them out, because they contain” high levels of lead and arsenic. “

“Continued exposure to elevated levels of these metals can cause serious health risks and may affect people or animals of any age or state of health, “the government agency reported, stressing that it” may be particularly harmful to vulnerable populations, such as infants, young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, other sufferers. chronic health problems and pets ”.

Last week, the company reported that permanently closed. “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 scarce, but Black Oxygen executives and employees offered an explanation during Zoom meetings. According to BOO President Carlo Garibaldi, the company has been successful in overcoming Federal Trade Commission complaints, FDA seizures, recalls from Health Canada (the Canadian government agency responsible for public health) and what ‘they see it as the online mafia. But the “fatal blow” came when their online distributor dismissed them as customers, he added.

The announcement marked the apparent demise of one of the most successful companies that has jumped on the bandwagon of interest in direct and online alternative medicines: oils, supplements, herbs, elixirs, and so-called l-boosting superfoods. immunity that despite widespread concerns about their efficacy and safety, they constitute a loosely regulated multibillion dollar industry.

Now, BOO’s future is uncertain. Tens of thousands of bags of product remain in warehouses, company executives say, but sellers are unlikely to receive orders, refunds or commissions. “The federal lawsuit will continue,” said Matt Wetherington, an attorney representing four Georgia BOO buyers who filed a petition in November. claims against the company, claiming that it negligently sold them a product containing “dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals”, causing physical and economic damage.

Who is “the mud man”?

The creation of Black Oxygen Organics was imagined by 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, physiotherapist, “reiki” teacher, holistic doctor, herbalist and aromatherapist. He recently noted in a podcast that in 1989, Canadian authorities they accused him of practicing medicine without a license and a fine of $ 20,000. “Then my clinic went underground,” he added.

The businessman has been selling mud since the early 1990s. According to a 1996 Calgary Herald article, Health Canada forced him to recall an early version of his mud product because it was marketed. to treat arthritis and rheumatism without any evidence to back up its claims.

He then started selling mud baths under a different label, and continued this business until he found a method to make his dream come true, “a way to do a little secret extraction” for the mud to come together. dissolves in water, he said. In 2015, with the creation of his company NuWTR, which would later become Black Oxygen Organics, Saint-Onge had finally invented a slime that people could drink, he said. The following year he started selling himself as a corporate “coach”, and on his personal website he bragged about his worth: “I sell bottled mud”. “Let me teach you how to sell anything,” the self-promotion post added.

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