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O Organics Coconut Water Investigation

O Organics has now become a billion-dollar brand. So says its owner, Albertsons Companies, the supermarket giant that includes Safeway, Vons, Randalls, Star Market, and Shaw’s. The company calls it “one of the nation’s largest brands of USDA-certified organic products.” It now offers coconut water, a popular drink because of its “natural” nature and its association with sports and rapid hydration. Coconut water comes from sunny, tropical places where people eat and drink what grows naturally. It’s a super-healthy drink—right?

We’re not sure. Are companies like O Organics that produce coconut water being entirely honest about the ingredients and the health benefits of this drink? We’re investigating their claims.

O Organics makes at least two varieties of coconut water, Original Organic Coconut Water and Pineapple Organic Coconut Water.

Coconut water should not be confused with coconut milk, the milky-white liquid that can be extracted from adult coconut pulp. Coconut water is the almost-clear liquid inside of young, green coconuts. In fact, it’s possible to make a hole in the young coconut rind, poke a straw through it, and drink the water straight from the coconut.

Coconut water in general has about nineteen calories per 100 milliliters and is about 95% water and 4% carbohydrates.

Coconut water has a reputation as a good rehydrating sports drink, since it contains a lot of potassium plus sodium and manganese. It contains no fat, and normally contains less sugar and fewer calories than most fruit juices. An article on the Mayo Clinic website says, “Ounce for ounce, typical fruit juices have twice as many calories as unflavored coconut water.”

However, some companies mix coconut water with fruit juices, fruit pulp, or other substances for flavoring. These added ingredients may negate some of the quick-hydration and other claims made for coconut water.

Many of the claims originally made for coconut water have been proved false or have not been verified. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned companies not to make disease-related claims for coconut water, such as that it is antiviral, regulates blood glucose levels, or can cure illnesses. Previous class actions have taken on some other excessive claims, such as that coconut water is “super-hydrating,” “nutrient-packed,” or “mega-electrolyte.”

Are the producers of coconut water telling the whole truth about ingredients, nutritional content, and health benefits of their products, whether straight-up or flavored? We’d like to find out.

Have you bought either of the O Organic coconut waters? If you’d like to hear about the results of this investigation, fill out the form on this page.

Taste Nirvana Coconut Water Investigation

Taste Nirvana advertises its “premium” coconuts, “[g]rowing bigger and swe[e]ter than anywhere else in the world,” as well as the “authenticity” of a business run by multiple generations of a family in Thailand. The company’s website says, “Coconut water is very hydrating and contains low calories, no fat, high potassium, and tons of electrolytes.”

Really? Tons?

We’re not entirely sure about the claims being made for coconut water. Are companies being completely honest about the ingredients and the health benefits of this drink? We’re investigating their claims.

Taste Nirvana makes a number of varieties of coconut water, in different containers and sizes, including these:

  • Tetrapak Premium Coconut Water
  • Tall Can Premium Coconut Water
  • Small Can Premium Coconut Water
  • Glass Bottle Premium Coconut Water
  • Big Bottle Premium Coconut Water
  • Huge Bottle Premium Coconut Water
  • Coco Pulp with Tender Coconut Bits
  • Coco Pulp with Tender Coconut Bits
  • Coconut Water with Probiotic
  • HPP Cold Pressed Coconut Water
  • Cold Pressed Pasteurized Roasted Coconut Water
  • Roasted Coconut Water
  • Aloe Coco Can with Refreshing Aloe Vera
  • Aloe Coco Bottle with Refreshing Aloe Vera

The company says, “We use a process called ‘Steam Sterilization’ which is approved by the FDA. It is a combination of heat and pressure, which eliminates bacteria[] within the Coconut Water.”

Taste Nirvana touts its quality and social consciousness. The province in which it’s located, Nakhon Pathom, “is renown[ed] in Thailand for producing the most fragrantly sweet coconuts … and is agriculturally developed with more modern quality farming practices that ensure human workers are properly compensated for their work.” In particular, “Taste Nirvana & our province’s farming partners do not use monkeys or children to harvest coconuts.”

Coconut water has a reputation as a good rehydrating sports drink, since it contains a lot of potassium plus sodium and manganese. It contains no fat, and normally contains less sugar and fewer calories than most fruit juices. However, if coconut water is mixed with fruit juices, fruit pulp, or other substances, the added ingredients may negate some of the quick-hydration and other claims made for coconut water.

Many of the claims originally made for coconut water have been proved false or have not been verified. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned companies not to make disease-related claims for coconut water, such as that it is antiviral, regulates blood glucose levels, or can cure illnesses. Previous class actions have taken on some other excessive claims, such as that coconut water is “super-hydrating,” “nutrient-packed,” or “mega-electrolyte.”

Are the producers of coconut water telling the whole truth about ingredients, nutritional content, and health benefits of their products, whether straight-up or flavored? We’d like to find out.

Have you bought any of the Taste Nirvana coconut waters? If you’d like to hear about the results of this investigation, fill out the form on this page.

SolarCity, Tesla Solar Panel Installation and Fire Investigation

Do you have solar panels on your home? Were they provided and installed by SolarCity or—under its new name—Tesla Energy Operations?

Unfortunately, they might be a fire hazard.

Walmart filed a lawsuit on August 20, 2019 against Tesla, claiming that its stores have had seven fires caused by the Tesla/SolarCity panel rooftop installations.

According to the complaint, Tesla owned the solar systems, and its contracts with Walmart specified that it would install, inspect, and maintain them.

After six fires had occurred, in May 2018, Walmart asked Tesla to disconnect the systems. Tesla did so. But in November 2018, yet another fire occurred, at a store in Yuba City. The complaint claims, “Wires on the store’s rooftop were still sparking at the time that Walmart discovered the fire…”

And that’s not all. “Still more troubling, Walmart subsequently learned … that a potentially dangerous ground fault alert had occurred at the Yuba City site during the summer of 2018. Tesla either ignored the alert or deliberately failed to disclose it to Walmart.”

Walmart personnel went with Tesla workers when they inspected some of its store installations. The complaint claims that they found signs of poor maintenance. For example, they found “hotspots,” or areas of increased temperature.

“Walmart’s inspectors observed negligent and dangerous wire connection practices,” the complaint says. “Loose and hanging wires were present at multiple Walmart locations, resulting in abraded and exposed wires, decreased insulation, and a phenomenon known as arcing that substantially increases the risk of fire… Tesla also failed to ‘ground’ its systems properly, violating basic practices for the installation and operation of electrical systems…”

Walmart claims that Solar City and Tesla had taken a “rushed, negligent approach” to installation, in part because SolarCity “had adopted an ill-considered business model that required it to install solar panel systems haphazardly and as quickly as possible in order to turn a profit,” and that the workers doing the installation had not been properly trained. “Tesla’s personnel did not know, for example, how to conduct inspections or how to use simple tools” needed for installation and inspection.

Tesla has responsibility for the work because it bought SolarCity. The complaint charges that Tesla did so to bail it out, because its executives included two first cousins to Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla. But “Tesla failed to correct SolarCity’s chaotic installation practices or to adopt adequate maintenance protocols…”

The complaint charges that Tesla has failed to provide it with “any final root cause analyses for over a year,” so the individual causes of each fire cannot be pinpointed.

This means that those who have SolarCity installations on their homes do not even know what to check or improve on in order to prevent fires.

We’re investigating to see if a class action is needed.

If you have a SolarCity or Tesla solar installation, we’d like to hear from you. Fill out the form on this page and let us know what your experience has been.

Amount of SAM-e in Supplements Investigation

Do you take SAM-e supplements? Have you bought or taken one of the following brands:

  • Vitamins Because You Are Worth It
  • NusaPure
  • aSquared Nutrition
  • We Like Vitamins
  • BoostCeuticals
  • Healthy Way
  • Mental Refreshment

Unfortunately, the amounts of SAM-e found in these supplements may not always be as much as the label says. We’re investigating.

SAM-e, or S-adenosyl methionine, is a substance that’s found naturally in the human body. Mental Health America calls it “essential in more than 200 metabolic pathways.” 

Because higher amounts were found in people with depression and liver disease, scientists began researching to see if it might be useful for treating people with these conditions.

WebMD says evidence exists that SAM-e is a treatment for osteoarthritis pain, and that it may be as effective as a painkiller as NSAIDs like ibuprophen and Celebrex. While the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the Mayo Clinic say that the evidence is still inconclusive, many people use SAM-e to treat depression, osteoarthritis pain, or even for fibromyalgia pain and spinal cord damage due to HIV.

In Europe, SAM-e is a prescription drug. In the US, it’s a supplement. This means that it is not a tightly regulated as drugs are, to ensure that what’s in the container has uniform dosage, identity, purity, or consistency. The problem is that some sources claim that the brands listed above contain less SAM-e than promised on the label—sometimes as little as 12 to 18%.

This matters because doctors, naturopaths, and other health practitioners sometimes recommend that a patient take a certain amount of SAM-e on a regular basis to treat a condition.

People with depression may be told to take 800 to 1600 mg. per day; a common dosage for osteoarthritis patients is 600 to 1200 mg. per day, divided into three doses. If the brand the patient buys has far less SAM-e per pill than the label says, the patient will not get the proper dosage and will not get the health gains they’re looking for. And patients cannot simply increase the dosage, because they have no way of knowing how much SAM-e is in the product without lab testing.

We’re investigating to see if a class action is needed to encourage the consistency of SAM-e supplements.

If you’ve taken any of the brands of SAM-e listed above, fill out the form on this page. We’d like to know what your experience was.

Glucosamine Sulfate Supplement Ingredient Investigation

Do you take a glucosamine sulfate supplement? Is that supplement 365 Everyday Value Glucosamine Chondroitin (from Whole Foods) or GNC Glucosamine Sulfate (from GNC)? If so, you should check the ingredient label and see if you’re really getting what you want.

If the ingredient list shows glucosamine sulfate potassium chloride or glucosamine sulfate 2KCL, that may be an inferior substance to “real” glucosamine sulfate.

Glucosamine is best known as a treatment for osteoarthritis and joint pain, particularly of the knees. Some people may also take it to treat glaucoma, rheumatoid arthritis, jaw or back pain, or multiple sclerosis.

Glucosamine is a natural substance found in the fluid cushioning joints. It can also be found in seafood shells or made in the lab. In the body, it may help build cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. However, it comes in at least three forms—glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and N-acetyl glucosamine. Some forms may be better than others for joint pain relief.

Most of the research on glucosamine has been done with glucosamine sulfate, and studies show that it works better than, for example, glucosamine hydrochloride. Sometimes, in older people, the cartilage at the joints gets thin, and the sulfate may help build up more cartilage. Some people believe that glucosamine sulfate is thus better at relieving joint pain because it can keep degeneration of the joints from worsening.

Unfortunately, some supplements that are sold as glucosamine sulfate are merely other forms of glucosamine, with or without a sulfate added. Supplements are not regulated as tightly as drugs, and unfortunately the amount of active ingredients can vary considerably across different brands or even different lots.

WebMD says, “In some cases, the amount of glucosamine actually in the product has varied from none to over 100% of the amount stated on the product’s label. Some products have contained glucosamine hydrochloride when glucosamine sulfate was listed on the label.” Some formulations may include glucosamine hydrochloride with potassium sulfate. This formulation may not work as well as a “real” glucosamine sulfate. In any case, federal and state laws prohibit false labeling of products.

If you bought one of the supplements above, or any other supplement that claims to be glucosamine sulfate but where the ingredient list shows something else, we’d like to hear from you. Fill out the form on this page and let us know what you bought and what your experience was.

California Retirement Plans Breach of Fiduciary Duty Investigation

Do you live in California and work for a company with more than 500 employees? Do you participate in its 401(k) or other retirement plan? If so, you might want to look at how that retirement plan is run.

Retirement plans for such large companies are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and they must meet certain requirements. However, not all of them do—and that may eventually affect how much money you have to retire on.

The people who control the plan or make decisions about it are fiduciaries. They have a duty to manage the plan solely in the interest of the participants. They are not supposed to consider the company’s interests or their personal profits. If they breach that fiduciary duty, you may be able to sue to recover money lost to your account.

Fiduciaries have a number of responsibilities. They choose a range of investment options, covering a variety of risk levels and economic sectors. They should choose investments that do not have high sales costs or yearly fees, and they should replace options that consistently underperform.

Lawsuits from recent years show a sampling of ways fiduciaries might breach their duties.

General Electric was sued because most of its investment options were GE-related mutual funds. The complaint claimed that the plan accounted for 70-90% of the assets in the funds that they consistently underperformed. Having these funds in the retirement plan benefitted the GE-related companies who offered them but not the plan participants.

Frontier Communications was accused of overconcentrating the investments it offered. When Frontier acquired a Verizon subsidiary, it obtained about $150 million in Verizon stock. Later, it acquired even more and offered a Verizon common stock fund as an investment option. The complaint claimed that the company should have sold off more of the stock. It also had a large amount of AT&T stock, so that around 15% of the plan’s assets were in the telecommunications sector. The complaint claimed that the plan investments were not diverse enough.

McBride and Son was sued when it sold off a large amount of company stock from its retirement plan at what the complaint alleges was less than its true value. The sales benefitted company insiders, the complaint claims, allowing them to take control of a portion of the company.

Fidelity was accused in a lawsuit of taking kickbacks from the mutual funds in its retirement plan. In order to make enough money to pay the kickbacks, the complaint alleged, the funds had to charge higher fees or show lower profits, which cut into the participants’ gains.

Does your company’s retirement plan have similar problems?

If you live in California, work for a company with more than 500 employees, participate in its retirement plan, and believe the plan’s fiduciaries are not fulfilling their duties, we’d like to hear from you. Fill out the form on this page and let us know of any negligence, poor choices, or self-interest in the handling of the plan.

Atkins Shakes: Do They Deliver on Their Promises?

Can a bottled drink really replace a meal? How healthy and nutritious are Atkins Shakes?

Consumers want products that will simplify their lives but provide quality and nutrition. Since they are willing to pay more for products they perceive to be healthy, companies take pains to stress the nutritional aspect of their products. But do these types of drinks deliver what they promise?

The Atkins Shakes come in nine varieties:

  • Café Caramel Shake
  • Dark Chocolate Royale Shake
  • French Vanilla Shake
  • Milk Chocolate Delight Shake
  • Mocha Latte Shake
  • Strawberry Shake
  • Chocolate Banana Energy Shake
  • Larger Size: Vanilla Cream Shake
  • Larger Size: Creamy Chocolate Shake
  • Atkins® Plus Chocolate
  • Atkins® Plus Vanilla

The company’s website pages for the drinks stress nutrition: “Sweet and creamy Atkins® Shakes make for a perfect meal or snack with the kind of protein, calcium, and essential vitamins and minerals that keep you satisfied throughout the day.”

The page for the Chocolate Banana Shake promises, “Each delicious Chocolate Banana shake contains real fruit and an excellent source of vitamins B3, B5, B6 & B12 to give you steady energy. Atkins energy shakes are made with 15g of high quality protein, 5g of fiber, and contain no artificial colors or preservatives.”

The Vanilla Shake bids you to “[e]njoy the delicious taste of real dairy cream with sweet vanilla to give you the perfect mix of protein and essential vitamin & minerals to keep your energy steady and satisfy your hunger.”

The Atkins Plus Shakes offer even more, claiming to be “packed with 30g of high quality dairy protein, 7g of fiber and 20 vitamins and minerals. Atkins Plus shakes give you steady energy throughout the day, so they are the perfect meal replacement or complement to your workout routine.”

Atkins products are meant to help those who want to follow the Atkins diet, which features low carbohydrates. Atkins does not mind things like artificial sweeteners or preservatives. They are geared for weight loss and, purportedly, for better health.

But “the perfect meal replacement”? Can a bottled drink really supply that much nutrition, along with high levels of protein and fiber? We’re investigating.

If you’ve tried the Atkins shakes, we’d like to hear from you. Fill out the form on this page and let us know about your expectations and experience.

Cabot Greek Yogurt Investigation: Does It Deliver What It Promises?

How healthy and nutritious is Cabot Greek Yogurt?

Consumers these days are looking for healthier choices for meals and snacks, and companies go out of their way to make their own products look healthy and nutritious. What the products actually deliver may be something different.

Cabot makes its “Greek” yogurt in four varieties:

  • Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Plain Lowfat Greek Yogurt
  • Vanilla Bean Lowfat Greek Yogurt
  • Strawberry Lowfat Greek Yogurt

The Cabot website presses the message: “Dig into easy, #homemade #GreekYogurt dips for a #healthier, more flavorful snack[,]”it says, and “Adding a few simple, savory ingredients can turn Greek Yogurt into delicious, delightful dips and spreads, loaded with flavor…and protein.”

The recipes provided blend yogurt with wholesome ingredients such as cucumbers, lemon, and mint, with photos that show the resulting dip or drink surrounded by tomatoes, celery, berries, lemons, and other fresh and wholesome foods. The yogurts themselves promise from 18 to 22 grams of protein per serving. The notes on one recipe suggest that the lemon-dill yogurt dip can also be used “as a sauce for fish and even as a spread for grilled vegetable paninis.”

The recipe page notes that “all these recipes are loaded with healthy, fresh ingredients – a real plus when feeding hungry friends and family.” It also recommends, “You can also substitute Greek yogurt in lots of different recipes to lower fat and add protein.”

The page for Vanilla Bean Lowfat Greek Yogurt is even more enthusiastic: “Enjoy this blend of our nutrient-rich Greek Yogurt and the natural sweetness of honey. Cabot’s Greek Yogurt makes a healthy, protein-rich treat when blended with fresh fruits for quick and yummy smoothies.” It also promises, “Made from 2 percent lowfat milk, this sweet treat is guiltless. Dig into easy, homemade Greek-Yogurt dips for a healthier, more flavorful snack…”

Cabot was already hit with a lawsuit in 2012 alleging that its Greek Yogurt products do not meet the definition of yogurt because they contain whey protein concentrate (WPC) and milk protein concentrate (MPC), ingredients that are not permitted in yogurt. An article in DairyReporter.com said the plaintiff claimed, “Instead of filtering out excess liquids—an expensive straining process used in traditional Greek yogurt manufacture—Cabot Greek is thickened using WPCs and MPCs as ‘filler materials’…”

Are Cabot’s Greek yogurt products as nutrition- and protein-packed as the company portrays them to be? Or might a class action suit be needed to set the record straight?

We’re investigating. If you’ve purchased any of the Cabot Greek Yogurt products listed above, fill out the form on this page. We’d like to know about your expectations and experience.

Iconic Grass Fed Protein Drink Investigation: Does It Deliver?

How healthy and nutritious are Iconic Grass Fed Protein Drinks?

Twenty-first century consumers want natural foods and good nutrition. Since they’re willing to pay more for these, companies are anxious to present their products as being pure and packed with nutrition. But do they deliver on their promises?

The Iconic Grass Fed Protein Drinks come in at least five varieties:

  • Chocolate Truffle Iconic Grass Fed Protein Drink
  • Café au Lait Iconic Grass Fed Protein Drink
  • Vanilla Bean Iconic Grass Fed Protein Drink
  • Golden Milk (Turmeric Ginger) Iconic Grass Fed Protein Drink
  • Coconut Matcha Iconic Grass Fed Protein Drink

Iconic is clearly after the purity-and-nutrition demographic as well. The company’s website introduces the drinks by saying, “ICONIC Protein is the low sugar, high protein snack you’ve been looking for. Our drinks & powders are free from chemicals, artificial sweeteners and GMOs so you don’t have to spend hours scanning the label.” Each bottle carries three figures prominently on the front label: the amount of protein, the amount of sugar, and the number of calories.

It makes at least one startling claim: “Grass feeding improves the quality of cow’s milk and makes the milk richer in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and CLA—resulting in 300-500% more beneficial nutrients compared to non-grass fed sources.”

Is this true?

The website says that the drinks are “the perfect breakfast on the go.” It advises consumers, “Step away from the sugary, high-carb treats. The entire ICONIC range is low sugar & under 130 calories but [filled with] lots of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, it’ll fill you up without weighing you down.”

It says the drinks are good for pre- and post-workout refueling: “Refuel and hydrate your body with 20g of grass-fed milk protein isolate, a powerful combination of whey + casein. ICONIC products have a light and smooth taste that actually makes post-workout nutrition delicious and refreshing!”

The page for each drink says it contains “premium, truly grass-fed verified protein[,]” “clean, trusted, natural ingredients[,]” and “a complete amino acid profile, BCAA’s, easy digestibility and electrolytes.” The various flavors are advertised to contain “healthy antioxidants” (chocolate truffle flavor), “20mg curcumin for recovery & vitality” (turmeric ginger flavor), or “70 mg caffeine & soothing L-theanine” (coconut matcha flavor).

Do these drinks really provide the advertised nutritional benefits? We’re investigating.

If you’ve purchased any of these Iconic drinks, fill out the form on this page. We’d like to hear about your expectations and experience.

Jeep Wrangler Highway “Death Wobble” Investigation

Do you own a Jeep Wrangler? Does it sometimes begin to shake uncontrollably when you drive it at higher speeds?

We’re investigating to see if a class action is needed.

The “death wobble” can occur in any vehicle with a solid front axle, reports The Drive. It’s a shaking of the steering system that occurs when the vehicle goes over a bump at high speeds. It can normally be stopped by slowing the vehicle down, something that may or may not be easy to do on a highway.

See this link for what the death wobble looks like.

This is not a new problem with Jeeps. Reports of it go back as far as 1995.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the Jeep’s maker, doesn’t seem to think the problem is serious. It calls the problem “steering system vibration” and blames it on things like poorly-installed vehicle modifications, worn steering components, and incorrect tire pressure or wheel balance. It says it is “not a widespread condition, nor is it a safety issue.”

Some drivers would disagree. It’s never a good idea for a vehicle to have a terrifying problem at high speeds. Although no deaths have been reported, one driver reported that his vehicle “went left of center” so that oncoming traffic had to slow to a stop. Another claimed, “I had a great deal of difficulty controlling my vehicle during this episode.” A third posting said that “the vehicle veered across 3 lanes.”

Some of the affected vehicles have fewer than 10,000 miles on them or are less than a year old. Some complaints specifically state that the vehicle has had no modifications. And some complaints report the problem recurring even after it has been repaired two or three times.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received numerous complaints about the problem and is looking into the issue to see if a recall is needed. However, it has not asked for a recall of previous Jeep models for this particular problem.

As one driver pointed out, “Dodging cars on the highway in order to slow my car down while it shakes violently is clearly a safety issue for everyone on the road.”

Whether the NHTSA issues a recall or not, drivers are being put at risk now. We’re investigating to see if a class action is needed.

If you own or lease a Jeep JL Wrangler and you have experienced the “death wobble,” fill out the form on this page. We’d like to know what your experience was.