The secret’s out - this weight-loss product is illegal

The secret’s out - this weight-loss product is illegal

Today marks a big day on the consumer rights calendar.  It's International Consumer Rights Day, and this year’s theme is close to my heart - making the digital marketplace fairer for consumers.

weight loss pexels

Listen to today's Consumerwatch below, or read it under the podcast:

That’s online shopping to you and me.

There’s one particular product, a weight-loss product being sold online in South Africa, that’s a huge cause for concern for the medical community right now.

It’s called the Secret Fat Burner, and the marketing of the product online is textbook ‘get slim quick’ stuff.

You don't have to be on a strict diet or go to the gym to lose a ton of weight fast.

Become a slim, confident winner who feels like losing weight is a breeze with The Original Secret Fat Burner. Lose up to 3 kgs in your first week!

The packaging claims the tablets contain natural sounding ingredients - Bitter Orange Extract,  Cassia Seed, Green Tea Extract, Chromium, Yerba Mate, Guarana, Raspberry ketones, L-carnitine, Aloe, Dietary Fiber, Evening Primrose, Starch, and Dextrose.

But on receiving reports from a number of endocrinologists who have had patients come to them with overactive thyroids after using The Secret Fat Burner - the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa SEMDSA had the product tested by an independent accredited laboratory which revealed the reason for those side-effects - the presence of  Hydrochlorothiazide, Sibutramine, Levo-thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3).

For starters, Sibutramine has been banned in many countries and no longer registered as an ingredient which can be sold in SA because the appetite suppressant was found to increase the risk of irregular heart rhythms and stroke.

The others are scheduled ingredients, and products that contain them should only be sold with a prescription.

SEMDSA said people taking the product could get palpitations, anxiety, heat intolerance, aggravation of hypertension and cardiac complications such as atrial fibrillation and cardiac failure. 

If you stop taking it, your thyroid function would return to normal within a few weeks but those with cardiac complications may require specific therapy by a specialist. This is serious stuff.

SEMDSA has sent a letter to the Medicines Control Council, now known as the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, warning them that they have seen patients who were severely affected by this product.

As the organisation says that banned Sibutramine aside, this product should be registered as a medicine, and it’s not. 

So it’s being sold illegally in terms of the Health Professions Act.

Under the Consumer Protection Act - products have to be labelled correctly and everyone in the supply chain is liable for any harm that is caused to a patient, that includes the agents who sell it.

Unsurprisingly, that supply chain appears to be a secret too. I tracked down two people connected to websites selling the Secret Fat Burner - Vanitize in the Cape and MelanotanSA here in Glenashley. They both claimed to be just sales agents and refused to give me any details of the those who make and distribute it.

Vanitize has the product listed for sale on its website but with a “sold out” notice. “Anton” responded to my query saying - 'We have already been contacted by the MCC and asked to remove the product from our store. We have complied with the request and no longer sell this product.'

Weight-loss product, the Secret

He added: 'I’m sure that it is still being sold around the country. We are not the proprietors of the product, we were simply one of the many agents. There are other online stores selling it. It would be best to speak directly with the owners. 

'Who are the owners and please give me their contact details?' I asked. Silence.

It was the same with “Julie” of MelanotanSA. Like Anton, she didn’t give her full name. Always a red flag.

Earlier this week a colleague emailed the company enquiring about the product, and was told it cost R690 a bottle, calling it one of their “very effective weight loss products”.

But when I sent my media query the next day - it was suddenly out of stock.

Julie said she didn’t know of anyone having any adverse effects from taking the product. 

'I am sure the manufacturers/suppliers would have more information about this for you. We do not get involved with production, labeling or distribution of any sort. I would advise against jumping to conclusions about our website before discussing this on air before you/we hear back from our attorneys.'

'Okay, who are manufacturers or suppliers?' I asked. I never heard from her or her attorneys again, despite a follow-up email.

Bottom line - stay away from this product. It’s secret is that it contains some really dangerous ingredients, one of them banned and others with potentially dire side effects especially for those who have cardiac issues, as many overweight people do.

For more information, email: [email protected]

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