Sunrider Corp. may omit the raw soy in its Nutrien product and simply sell the remaining herbal mixture, a company spokesman said Tuesday. But a state official said that wouldn't leave much to sell.
"There are no herbs in the product," said Dale Yamnik, compliance officer for the state Department of Agriculture. "According to my information, Nutrien is made of soy powder; cyloid, which is added to keep it from sticking together; and artificial flavorings - no herbs."Michael Clapier of Sunrider said Yamnik is wrong.
"He is mistaken. I got a packet of Nutrien and checked. The ingredients are soy bean extract, coix fruit extract, bai-mao root extract and other herbs as sweeteners," Clapier said.
Yamnik said that if the label claims there are herbs in the product,"It is false labeling and fraud."
Months of problems between Sunrider, a producer of health food supplements, and the state Agriculture Department culminated in the department's closure March 14 of Sunrider's Orem plant.
Yamnik said his department cited Sunrider for nine violations of state regulation. Charges included false labeling of products, listing ingredients that had not been added and omitting ingredients that had; adding stevia, an artificial sweetener illegal for use in the United States; and using soy product that was found on several occasions to be contaminated with salmonella bacteria.
Clapier said the mislabeling stemmed from a misunderstanding of requirements. He said stevia never had been added to the product in question, although Sunrider might have included it in a skin-care product designed for external use.
He said all problems have been resolved except that of the contaminated soy product.
"We understood there was a problem with the soy from Taiwan, and we tried to find a domestic source. We wanted raw soy rather than processed because it's a whole food containing more nutrients. We contacted 10 suppliers, and none could give us the product we wanted.
"Soy has been the culprit all along, so we are not opposed to getting rid of it. We are considering switching to a rice base, or selling the product without a base. The soy powder adds protein to a diet, but most of the benefits come from the herbs. If we decide to just sell the herbs, we will tell customers to look for extra protein from other foods," he said.
Yamnik said whether the herbs exist or not, he would welcome an end to the raw soy problem.
"It would be nice to get this settled, but if they had a totally new product, they would have to approach us again," he said.
Yamnik said Sunrider still will have to pay for the original violations.
"The fee is $5,000 per violation, so they should owe $45,000. We are negotiating with their lawyer, and he is supposed to make a counterproposal," he said.
Clapier has said he doesn't think Sunrider should have to pay the fines.
"Some of the charges are false, and the rest are for things we cannot control. How can they charge us for things that aren't even our fault?"