The owner of a Joplin vitamin manufacturing and distributing company responds to an investigation by the FDA.
The company under investigation is JT Naturals. Owner Jeff Hicks was the subject of another story we aired last week. The City of Joplin says Hicks owes money for not repaying a loan on a now defunct sports business. You can read the story here.
JT Naturals' website says they mix, fill, and package vitamins. JT Naturals also lists several certifications, and advertises its American-made products.
"Very little of his ingredients or supplies come from U.S. manufacturers anymore," says James Melton.
Melton, a former quality manager with JT Naturals, says he quit his job because Jeff Hicks, his manager at the time, cut corners.
"He said it where he cares more about his profit margin than product quality," says Melton.
In February of this year, an FDA investigation report listed several violations at JT Naturals. According to the FDA, JT Naturals didn't identify specifications for its ingredients, not making sure ingredients were pure. The FDA says it's possible a male enhancement product manufactured by JT Naturals could contain pharmaceutical ingredients not listed for consumers.
The FDA also wrote that JT Naturals didn't identify quality control, and manufacturing records didn't list how much of an ingredient should be put into a pill. According to the FDA, production staff signed documents stating pill ingredients were not expired, when the ingredients were in fact expired.
Melton says he and other employees tried to tell Hicks that public health was at stake by failing to meet FDA standards.
"Every time he would ask me to cut a corner, save some time, or push out bad product, I always refused. And he would basically forge the documents after my level," says Melton.
Hicks sent us a statement, saying "JT Naturals has never received warning letters or has had any issues concerning the safety of any of our products and have never had to recall any products."
The FDA says differently. They say their inspection opened an investigation.
The FDA also says pills manufactured by JT Naturals could be contaminated from insulation hanging out of ceilings above production lines. Fans, with dirt and dust on the blades, were blowing on open trays of finished product.
The FDA says gel capsules that could contain allergens were stuck to trays that workers said were clean.
Hicks says Melton, the employee speaking out, is to blame for the violations. He says, "Many of the observations from the FDA audit were the result of the incompetence of James Melton's quality control experience and inaccurate work."
"When I was employed with him, I was just worried that the call that somebody was going to get sick...I worried about that every time of every day because of the bad product," says Melton.
The company has moved to a different location since the FDA's visit. The FDA won't say how it plans to further investigate JT Naturals, citing rules for open cases.
Again, JT Naturals is a wholesale distributor, and the company's website doesn't list clients. We are unable to find out which stores may be selling the products in question.
James Melton did say there were three companies that regularly bought products from JT Naturals: Mason Vitamins, Molecular Health Technologies, and Garden State Nutritional. So far, none of those companies have returned our phone calls for comment on this story.
Click here to view the FDA investigation.
Click here to view Jeff Hicks' statement.
Click here to view a court case involving JT Naturals.
Click here to view another court case involving JT Naturals.
KOAM - Licensed to Pittsburg, Kansas