Enforcement Actions against
Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS) Marketers

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

MMS contains a 28% solution of sodium chlorite. which, when mixed with an acid such as citrus juice, produces chlorine dioxide (ClO2), a potent bleach used for stripping textiles and industrial water treatment. High oral doses, such as those recommended in MMS labeling, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration. Sodium chlorite is not legal to sell for human consumption, and legitimate suppliers of the chemical include a warning sheet stating that it can cause potentially fatal side effects if swallowed. MMS's discovery is attributed to Jim Humble, a former "research engineer."  

In 2008, Health Canada ordered Subtle Energy Therapy of Edmonton, Canada to stop selling MMS because it did not have a drug identification number. In 2009 and 2010, the FDA ordered two MMS distributors to stop making illegal health claims for MMS [1,2]. Presumably as a result, manufacturers changed the product label to specify that MMS is sold for water purification. However, it has continued to be widely claimed to be effective against HIV, hepatitis, the H1N1 flu virus, common colds, acne, cancer, and many other conditions. The fourth edition of Humble's 2006 book, Breakthrough: The Miracle Mineral Solution of the 21st Century, which is filled with grandiose claims, is downloadable free of charge.

In 2010, the FDA and Health Canada warned that MMS is ineffective and dangerous [3,4]. In 2014, Health Canada seized MMS bottles and raw materials from buymms.biz [5]. In 2011, the British Advertising Standards Authority ordered Subtle Energy Therapy UK to stop making a long list of unsubstantiated claims for MMS [6]. In 2015, Health Canada seized an MMS product being injected at Art Nails Ltd., in Vancouver, B.C., which appeared to be unauthorized because it contained no labeling. (All products administered by injection in Canada must be authorized by Health Canada and must have approved labeling.)

Washington Marketers Convicted

In May 2015, Louis Daniel Smith, 45, of Spokane, Washington was convicted following a seven-day trial of conspiracy, smuggling, selling misbranded drugs, and defrauding the United States. Evidence at trial showed that from 2007 to 2011, Smith operated a business called Project GreenLife (PGL), which sold "Miracle Mineral Supplement" (MMS) through the Internet [7].

At the trial, the government presented evidence that Smith instructed consumers to combine MMS with citric acid to create chlorine dioxide, add water, and drink the resulting mixture to cure numerous illnesses. Chlorine dioxide is a potent agent used to bleach textiles, among other industrial applications. Chlorine dioxide is a severe respiratory and eye irritant that can cause nausea, diarrhea and dehydration, but instructions that Smith provided with his product, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting were signs that the miracle cure was working. The instructions also stated that despite a risk of possible brain damage, the product might still be appropriate for pregnant women and for infants who were seriously ill.

The evidence presented at trial also showed that Smith created phony "water purification" and "wastewater treatment" businesses in order to obtain sodium chlorite and ship his MMS without being detected by the FDA or the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The government also presented evidence that Smith hid evidence from FDA inspectors and destroyed evidence while law enforcement agents were executing search warrants on his residence and business.

Before the trial, three of Smith's alleged co-conspirators, Chris Olson, Tammy Olson and Karis DeLong, Smith's wife, pleaded guilty to introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. Tammy Olson was sntenced to 3 years of probation and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine plus a $100 special assessment. Chris Olson was sentenced to 1 year of probation and ordered to pay a $25 special assessment. Delong was sentenced to 3 years of probation and ordered to pay a $5,o00 fine plus a $100 special asessment.

Chris Olson, along with alleged co-conspirators Matthew Darjanny and Joseph Lachnit, testified at trial that Smith was the leader of PGL. The jury convicted Smith of one count of conspiracy to commit multiple crimes, three counts of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, and one count of fraudulently smuggling merchandise into the United States. In October 2015, he was sentenced to 51 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release [8].

Actions against Kerri Rivera

Kerri Rivera, who has no recognized health-related credentials, claims that autism is caused by parasites and can be cured by MMS. She lives in Mexico but markets MMS worldwide and has promoted it repeatedly at AutismOne, the Chicago-based annual meeting that serves as autism quackery's premier showcase. In 2015, Rivera's scheduled participation at the meeting triggered a cascade of criticism that culminated with action by the Illinois Attorney General.

Prior to AutismOne's 2015 conference, more than 1,000 parents signed a petition protesting Rivera's appearance [9] and some even picketed the hotel where the meeting was scheduled to take place. After NBC5-TV broadcast a very critical report [10], a representative of the attorney general's office attended Rivera's talk and the AG's office demanded substantiation of her claims [11]. Apparently unable to do this, she signed an assurance of voluntary compliance [12] under which she is barred in Illinois from (a) selling chlorine dioxide or similar substances to Illinois residents and (b) presenting at future Illinois conferences concerning the use of such substances to treat autism. More than 5,000 people have signed a petition asking Amazon to stop selling Rivera's book, Healing the Symptoms Known As Autism [13].

References

  1. Warwick TH. Warning letter to Jenine M. Cohoon (True Renewal), Jan 6, 2009.
  2. Singleton ER. Warning letter to Norman Hem (7Seas LLC), April 5, 2010.
  3. FDA warns consumers of serious harm from drinking Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS): Product contains industrial strength bleach. FDA News Release, July 30, 2010.
  4. Health Risks associated with use of Miracle Mineral Solution. Health Canada advisory, May 12, 2010.
  5. Health Canada seizes dangerous health products from online retailer. Health Canada Web site, Oct 18, 2014.
  6. ASA adjudication on Subtle Energy UK, June 1, 2011.
  7. Seller of "Miracle Mineral Solution" convicted for marketing toxic chemical as a miracle cure. U.S. Department of Justice news release, May 28, 2015.
  8. Seller of "Miracle Mineral Solution" sentenced to prison for marketing toxic chemical as a miracle cure. U.S. Department of Justice news release, Oct 28, 2015.
  9. Stop Kerri Rivera speaking at Autismone conference on Saturday 23rd may 2015. Change.org petition, posted February 2015.
  10. Chicago woman promotes controversial "miracle treatment." NBC5-TV, May 18, 2015.
  11. State takes action against "miracle treatment" For children. NBC5-TV Chicago, June 24, 2015.
  12. Assurance of voluntary compliance. In the matter of Kerri Rivera, investigation # 2015-HCL-241, June 2015.
  13. Remove the book 'Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism' from your sellers list. Change.org petition, posted October 2014.

This article was revised on January 20, 2016.

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