Test findings indicating health benefits for "harmonized water" products alerted Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to questionable testing practices; testing lab to pay $50,000
(DES MOINES, Iowa) A product testing laboratory in New York agreed to comply with generally accepted scientific testing standards and adopt other safeguards after the Consumer Protection Division raised questions about how testing had been conducted.
The Iowa Attorney General’s office became concerned with the work of International Research Services, Inc. (“IRSI”) of Port Chester after it had supported claims by the maker of so-called “harmonized water” products, such as “drinkable sunscreen.”
IRSI, its owner and CEO Stephen R. Schwartz, and its principal investigator, Robert J. Frumento, entered into a written agreement called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance to resolve the Iowa Attorney General’s concerns with IRSI’s testing practices.
Osmosis, LLC, of Evergreen, Colo., pointed to an IRSI study as support for its claims that spraying UV Neutralizer water into the mouth provided hours of sun protection. Osmosis also cited an IRSI study in support of claims that another Osmosis product with water as the sole ingredient was effective in treating acne. In 2017, Attorney General Tom Miller filed a lawsuit against Osmosis over such claims, which was resolved through a consent order that required the company to change its marketing practices and pay $70,000.
Miller’s lawsuit against Osmosis detailed numerous reasons for regarding the company’s “harmonized water” products as bogus. For example, Osmosis’s CEO and primary owner, Dr. Benjamin Johnson, had acknowledged in writing that the products “are placebo in nature and have no dietary or medical properties whatsoever.” This acknowledgment was contained in a purchase agreement between Johnson and the Iowa farmer who invented the machine that “harmonized” water by bombarding it with radio waves.
“Some private testing labs may be too eager to deliver a favorable study to paying clients,” Miller said. “This can be downright dangerous, when ineffective or even harmful products are presented to the public and health authorities as scientifically tested and approved, which is what we believed happened here.”
Miller noted that IRSI’s principal investigator on the favorable harmonized water studies was Frumento, who had earlier been cited by Columbia University in a retraction statement for “research misconduct” involving “falsification and fabrication” that produced “false support for reportedly significant results.”
In addition to requiring IRSI to adhere to sound science in its testing, which the company claimed it has always done, the Assurance places particular restrictions on testing in which Frumento is involved. IRSI, Schwartz and Frumento denied any wrongdoing in the Assurance.
“IRSI and its president Stephen R. Schwartz cooperated in our investigation and we commend them for that,” Miller said. “But this case stands as a caution to consumers that claims of scientific testing and proof cannot always be taken at face value, and that a healthy dose of skepticism may ultimately be the best protection.”
- Be skeptical of ads touting extraordinary health benefits that seem to violate common sense. Scientific-sounding language can be used to promote worthless remedies.
- Beware of supposed “scientific breakthroughs” that you first hear about in someone’s product ad. Genuine breakthroughs are likely to receive widespread publicity through trusted news sources.
- With health fraud as with other consumer frauds, if it sounds too good to be true, it is almost certainly not true.
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 888-777-4590.