Thursday, August 29, 2013

Did You Know That Tom's Of Maine Sold To Colgate? In 2006?

At the dentist yesterday, my hygienist commented that Tom's of Maine - the green toothpaste begun in 1970 - was now owned by Colgate.  She'd gotten a sample with a Colgate shipment and that's how she learned this.

When I checked online it turned out Colgate bought Tom's for $100 million!

 Organic Consumer wrote in 2006:
Best known for toothpaste, Tom's of Maine got its start in 1970 by
making a phosphate-free laundry detergent. Over the years, cofounder Tom Chappell, 63, poked fun at major brands like Colgate, saying they put artificial additives in their toothpastes while Tom's of Maine used natural ingredients.
Chappell said he will continue to run the brand from its Kennebunk headquarters. None of the privately held firm's approximately 170 jobs will be lost, he said.  ''We'll be a stand-alone subsidiary," said Chappell. ''And we have a commitment from Colgate that our formulas will not be tampered with.
Tom's of Maine's website paints a public service oriented company image:
"Tom’s of Maine is a leading manufacturer of natural and environmentally–friendly products, including natural toothpaste, alcohol–free mouthwash, natural dental floss, natural deodorant and antiperspirant and natural bar soap. Founded in 1970 in Kennebunk, Maine, the company is inspired by and committed to sustainable business practices as well as supporting people and communities. Each year, Tom’s of Maine gives 10% of its profits back to organizations that support human, healthy and environmental goodness and encourages employees to use 5% (12 days) of employee time to volunteer. Tom’s of Maine products are vegan, Kosher, Halal–certified and all packaging is recyclable through a partnership with upcycling leader TerraCycle or participating municipalities."
Natural Society  sees it differently:
"In fact, Tom’s of Maine isn’t even from Maine, and it’s owned by a well-known corporate giant — Colgate-Palmolive of New York. Purchasing an 84% stake in Tom’s back in 2006 (yes, they have owned Tom’s since 2006!) for 100 million dollars, Colgate-Palmolive’s share of the global toothpaste market has risen to 44%. In the United States alone, Colgate-Palmolive controls 35% of the market. Unfortunately, part of the companies success relies on a patented gingivitis formula which contains a toxic chemical substance called triclosan that reacts with the chlorine in tap water to become chloroform — a deadly chlorinated aromatic.
Shockingly, the result of the reaction is similar to the dioxins found in the compound Agent Orange that was responsible for 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects after being used in Vietnam by the U.S. military as a herbicide. This is the chemical reaction taking place in your mouth when using Colgate’s gingivitis formula. Interestingly enough, Agent Orange was developed by the biotech company responsible for the rampant genetic modification of the world’s food supply — Monsanto.
It gets worse. Triclosan is only one of the hazardous chemicals found in oral care products. One visit to the Tom’s of Maine official website and you will see the invitation to view all of their product ingredients, organized from A to Z. There is even a statement declaring that not only are all ingredients “naturally sourced,” but that they are “sustainable and responsible.” A look at the ingredients list, however, and you will find that Tom’s of Maine was not being very responsible or sustainable with ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc chloride added to their products."

There may be problems with Tom's, but Natural Society's post has its own problems.  If Tom's isn't from Maine - their website says they are in Kennebunk, Maine and they get their water from a Maine aquifer - where are they from?  A recent post at Grist says the potatoes for new packaging are from Maine and that Tom's is in Maine.  Greenbiz writes:
The research [to turn potatoes to plastic] is part of a partnership that includes the University of Maine and the Sustainable Bioplastics Council of Maine, which are seeking ways of recapturing local agricultural waste.
Natural Society seems to be doing a little sleight of hand here - in one hand Tom's and in the other hand Colgate.  Tom's isn't from Maine because Colgate is headquartered in New York.  From what I can tell, Colgate has left Tom's to do its own thing.  It may be that Colgate uses Triclosan, but Natural Society hasn't actually said Tom's does and I don't see it listed in the ingredients of my tube.  Nor is it listed on the website for the tube I have.   

Sodium monofluorophosphate 0.76% (0.15% w/v fluoride ion) Decay prevention Fluorspar (calcium fluoride), an ore
Calcium carbonate Mild abrasive Purified calcium from the earth
Water Consistency Maine aquifer
Glycerin Moistener Vegetable oils
Sodium bicarbonate pH adjustment Purified sodium bicarbonate from the earth
Carrageenan Thickener Seaweed (Chondrus crispus)
Xylitol Flavor Birch trees or corn
Natural Flavor Flavor Peppermint (menthe piperita) leaves
Sodium lauryl sulfate Dispersant Derived from coconut and/or palm kernel oil

It may also be true that some of the zinc products Natural Society cites from the Tom's website may be in other products, but I don't see them in the toothpastes.

There are also complaints online about dropping the aluminum tubes for plastic tubes, but I suspect the potato based plastic tubes are in response to that.

I found one other webiste that had problems with Tom's of Maine:  The Cornucopia Institue does health research related to small farms.  Their website says:
"The Cornucopia Institute will engage in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural issues, The Cornucopia Institute will provide needed information to consumers, family farmers, and the media."
Their problem is that Tom's uses carrageenan, which is one of the ingredients in my tube and it's listed above.  
There is simply no way around it: dozens of scientific, peer-reviewed studies used food-grade carrageenan and found it caused gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcerations, lesions and even colon cancer in laboratory animals.  Most of these recent studies were funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

They cite their March report "Carrageenan: How a “Natural” Food Additive is Making Us Sick."  Carrageenan is made from one kind of seaweed and is used in lots of products as a thickener - soy milk, almond milk, ice cream, canned soups, frozen pizza - and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has put downgraded its rating:
CSPI also downgraded the seaweed extract carrageenan from "safe" to "certain people should avoid." Used as a thickener and stabilizing agent in many dairy products, a World Health Organization committee concluded that it is inadvisable to use carrageenan in liquid formula designed for infants under one year of age. Carrageenan is still used in some varieties of Similac, though not varieties sold in the U.K.
 I'd say that the at this point the food industry is not concerned with carrageenam, but some researchers have found reasons to be concerned.

So, that's what I've learned about Tom's.  I can't blame someone who has worked hard for 40 years for taking $100 million for his company.  It's easy to call someone else a sellout, but not many people would turn down an offer like that.  You can do a lot of good in the world with that much money.  But it's also an example of the shrinking of competition, that basic driver of a good market system.   

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