The Nestlé Qwik (Nesqwik) bunny has a new side gig. After mornings of pushing corn syrup laden drinks to sweet-toothed children, he pockets his sunglasses, dons a lab coat, and goes to check on things at Nestlé Clinical Nutrition. This division has launched a new product, Modulen IBD, which is marketed towards "patients with inflammatory conditions of the GI tract"(1). An advertising pamphlet touts Modulen IBD as "Complete Nutrition" which may be used for up to 8 weeks as a "sole source" of food or indefinitely as a "nutritional supplement." Nestlé claims to have created the only product "specifically designed for people with Crohn's disease."
To help reach people suffering from this ailment (read: increase market share), Nestlé has set up a website (www.ModulenIBD.com) and offered to ship samples. Out of curiosity (and since it was free), I ordered some. the order came via UPS in a plain brown box with a small, discrete Nestlé label in the top left corner.
After placing the box on the kitchen counter, I called my Level 3 examination team. I pay this team, $18/hour if i feel the integrity of my SCD kitchen has been breached. Although this team doesn't have the expertise of the Center for Disease Control (they work at a coffee shop), I find them reliable--and they need the extra money. The team of three arrived in surgical scrubs with masks in place. After I pointed to the box, they placed a utility knife on top and enclosed the box (and the knife) in an upside-down glass aquarium. One member sealed the edges with duct tape while another shut the windows. As I left, the team leader had placed his hands into 6 inch wide circular openings cut into the side of the aquarium. Attached to these openings were yellow rubber gloves which could be used to manipulate the contents within the aquarium. The following paragraphs contain excerpts from the team's report (initials correspond to names of team members):
TL: ". . . metal can is removed from box. Size approximately 4 inches wide, 5 inches high. Label has picture of pink-colored, stick-figurish man with hands raised overhead as if crossing a finish line. Color reminiscent of a healthy pink tissue . . . labeling to left of man reads 'Lactose-free, gluten free, low residue.'"
IP: "That's positive, sir! The lack of lactose and gluten falls within the guidelines of the SCD!"
TL: "Relax, I--P--. We're still maintaining a Level 3 Containment area. Suspend any judgments until we have at least read the ingredient label. That's where we learn about the true nature of this thing. . . . Okay, I've got it, I'm going to read it out . . .
- corn syrup
- acid casein
- sugar (sucrose)
- milk fat
- medium chain triglycerides (cocount oil)
- corn oil
- soy lecithin
- potassium citrate
- calcium phosphate
- sodium citrate
- calcium carbonate
- magnesium chloride
- potassium hydroxide
- potassium chloride
- sodium ascorbate
- choline bitartrate
- ferrous sulfate
- zinc sulphate
- magnesium oxide
- DL-alpha-tocopheryl acetate
- calcium pantothenate
- manganese sulfate
- pyridoxine hydrochloride
- thiamine hydrochloride
- copper sulfate
- retinyl palmitate
- folic acid
- sodium molybdate
- potassium iodide
- chromium chloride
- sodium selenate
. . . That's all 37 ingredients with the most abundant ingredient listed first. OK, I--P-- let's go back to ingredient one, the corn syrup. Give me an analysis, how does that impact digestion?"
IP: "Sir, corn syrup is created by treating corn starch with sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. After further treatment, including filtering and deodorizing, the result is a clear, odorless substance containing glucose and isomaltose, a disaccharide. Due to processing, corn syrup has the nutritional value of white sugar."
"In addition, undigested isomaltose has a great potential to cause harm for IBD sufferers. Since even healthy people have a shortage of the enzyme (sucrase-isomaltase complex) required to digest isomaltose, IBD sufferers should avoid it."
"In summary, due to the processed nature of this product as well as its isomaltose content, corn syrup is not, I repeat, not SCD compliant."
TL: "Thank you. 2nd ingredient: acid casein."
IP: "Sir, acid casein is a the curd that forms when milk has been left to sour. It is commonly used in the food industry and contains 21 amino acids. For those allergic to dairy products, acid casein should be avoided."
TL: "Good work, I-- P---. What about the third ingredient, sugar in the form of sucrose."
IP: "As you know sucrose is a disaccharide consisting of one fructose and one sucrose molecule. Sir, I have to interrupt to say that with the 1st and 3rd major ingredients consisting of sugar, this product should not be used by anyone with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Since both corn syrup and sucrose are refined sugars, and diets high in refined carbohydrates have been associated with Crohn's disease(2), this product is almost criminal."
TL: "You're right IP. Not only that but diets high in sugar increase the risk of heart disease(3). In addition, the World Cancer Research Fund found strong enough evidence to show a possible causal relationship between refined sugars and colorectal cancer(4)."
IP: "The next ingredients aren't winners either. The run-down of the top seven most prevalent ingredients are corn syrup, acid casein, sugar (sucrose), milk fat, medium chain triglycerides (coconut oil), corn oil, and soy lecithin. What else is in the box T--L--?"
TL: "Flavor packets. I guess this stuff doesn't taste so good. These teabag sized packets have names such as 'Chocolate Deluxe, Orange Dream, French Vanilla, Cappuccino, Irish Cream , Banana Cream, and Bubble Gum'. The main ingredient in each one is dextrose--more sugar."'
IP: "Gram for gram, this stuff is no healthier than a bagful of Halloween candy."
CL: "Sir, I just came back from running a general online search. We have strong evidence that this product contains genetically modified ingredients. Greenpeace's site www.truefoodnow.org marks all of Nestlé's other products as containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Nestlé's Position on Gene Technology states that they are "confident" in the safety of these ingredients. Sir, from the following facts, we may assume that this product contains genetically modified ingredients. 1. Nestlé would have to incur additional expense to separate non-genetically modified corn syrup from its regular GM corn syrup. 2. This additional expense would have to be justified as attracting more customers. To attract these customers the product would need some kind of indication that it is not GM. 3. Since there have been no marketing claims declaring it NOT genetically modified, Modulen IBD may be assumed to be a Frankenfood."
TL: "Good work, CL."
IP: "Man, I bet they make this stuff out of Kit Kat and Nestlé Crunch left overs."
TL: "Check this out, it's the price list for Modulen IBD. Twelve cans costs $192, or $16 bucks a can! Ah, but if you buy 24 cans, it's only $15 per can! These flavor packets cost about 50 cents each. Nestlé sent three cans and 24 flavor packets for free--that's $60 of product. I wonder if their percent mark-up is above. . ."
Afterward: The Level 3 examination team returns to work at the coffee shop--happy with the extra cash from their eccentric neighbor. The SCD kitchen has kept its integrity but as for the Nesqwik rabbit . . .
(1) From the side of a can of Modulen IBD
(2) Balch, James F and Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing 2nd Edition. Avery Publishing Group. Garden City Park, New York, 1997, p. 218.
*Note this book mirrors nearly every other Nutritional/Health book in its warning to avoid refined sugar. However, its diets for colitis and crohn disease are not helpful for putting IBD into remission. For that, you'll have to try the SCD diet described in Elaine Gottschall's Breaking the Vicious Cycle.
(3) Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Petition to the FDA to Require Better Sugar Labeling on Foods." Submitted August, 3, 1999. p. 18
(4) ibid, p. 17