For the background story on the fall of Ava Anderson Non-Toxic please see my original blog post.
As a female entrepreneur in the health and wellness education industry, I looked up to someone like Ava Anderson. I truly love all my Ava Anderson products, and use them on a daily basis. Ava has so many loyal fans and was doing so much good in the world of organic and non-toxic, as well as creating opportunities within her home state of Rhode Island. Her momentum within the industry is why I didn’t want her to walk away—I desperately wanted her to address the labeling and ingredients issues head on, as the Honest Company did over the summer, so we could all move on keeping the AANT name and reputation in tact. This whole scenario has played out very differently than what anyone could have expected though.
Instigator or Investigator?
Yesterday, blogger Jess Brandt, who is often cited as being the “whistle-blower” for this entire situation, released third-party lab results of Ava Anderson Non-Toxic products. Jess, a self-described “label-reading mama on a mission to find the safest products on the market,” felt so passionately about confirming the actual ingredients, she personally paid for samples of Ava Anderson Non-Toxic products to be tested by a third-party laboratory.
While many have referred to Jess as “a bully” or “crazy,” I have come to realize she is simply doing the necessary investigative work that our unregulated “non-toxic” industry is failing to do. Jess is the very definition of a lobbyist when it comes to influencing others of how cautious we need to be about the self-care products we use on ourselves and our children. The reason I think Jess is getting called a “bully” is because she has taken things a step further than most of us would. Instead of taking labels at face value, she investigates and confirms whether or not the labels match the ingredients. She cares about you as a consumer. Shouldn’t the company you are purchasing from have the same diligence and transparency?
Third-Party Lab Results
On Jess Brandt’s blog, she not only published a summary of the third-party results but she links to the ACTUAL reports that show the name of the scientific laboratory (PhytoChemia), their address, the full results, and the signatures of the chemists. I highly respect this gesture of full disclosure, especially because one of my main complaints about Ava Anderson Non-Toxic has been their complete lack of transparency, communication, and handling of this situation. They still haven’t revealed who conducted their “third-party testing” and haven’t shared any information directly with the public.
Now, I will say that I’m personally not irate by the results; however, it is confirmed that there is a mismatch of what is listed on the AANT labels versus what ingredients are actually in the AANT products. There are some synthetics. In some cases, there are ingredients listed on the label that are not included in the product. Or, a low-quality ingredient is used such as very diluted essential oil (side note: essential oils are another very unregulated industry!)
I’m simply sad and disappointed. I still choose to believe AANT was unknowingly screwed over by their third-party vendors; but their ongoing silence has made them seem guilty and completely at-fault. (Again, this could have been prevented by a crisis PR firm!)
Be Kind to Ava Anderson Consultants & Loyal Customers
I’m not a consultant, but I really love Ava Anderson products. I am hurt enough by all this, but my heart really goes out to the consultants who invested their personal time, money, and reputation into this company. All the consultants I’ve met are passionate about educating consumers on the benefits of high-quality, non-toxic skin care and are sharing a very worthy cause. Not many MLM ambassadors can say they’re doing “life-changing” work as this army of 12,000 consultants can! However, I’ve seen it already (mainly in the comments of my last blog post) that consultants are being called “naive” if they continue to sell these products. I don’t think that is fair. Due to the complexity of this situation, the questions that are still unanswered, and the unknowns of what the new company will be called or what products they will sell, I think it’s respectable for a consultant to stay a consultant for the moment. However, if the new company continues the gross practice of ignoring the issues, or not being transparent about their testing laboratory and results, and then fails to obtain a USDA Organic label, then I would certainly recommend running far away from “the company formerly known as Ava Anderson Non-Toxic LLC.”
Overall: This situation isn’t the fault of the consultants. They were blindsided by all of this. Have compassion for what they’re going through, and please do not use it as an opportunity to sell them on your competing MLM business!
Lack of Chemicals & Integrity
I am still using my current Ava Anderson products. I don’t believe any product is so harmful that it needs to be thrown away; at least not when compared to most products at your local drug store. However, I doubt I will purchase from this company again simply due to the company’s complete mishandling, and continued mishandling, of this situation. I was more forgiving initially when I had high hopes of hearing from the Anderson’s in an exclusive interview, or from the new owners directly—thinking they all just needed more time to pull themselves together. But I have yet to even receive an email from home office acknowledging the situation or providing any sort of explanation. My last order was January 6th. There is no question that I am am active customer in their database.
AANT has put their consultants in the very awkward, and unfair position of “whisper-down-the-lane” in relaying the information of this fallen company. The new company seems to be sweeping everything under the carpet and focusing on the excitement of the re-brand instead; as if a re-brand were the plan all along. Due to the continued mishandling, I can’t believe in the integrity of the new formation of this company because they haven’t shown me a reason to trust them. And, ONCE AGAIN, this all could have be avoided if they had just hired a crisis PR firm. For the love! How have they not?! It’s been two weeks!
The Importance of the USDA Organic Seal
The greatest lesson I have learned throughout this is to not take labels at face value. Moving forward, if I want a non-toxic or organic product, I will only purchase one that carries the USDA Organic seal, as they are the only products that go through rigorous testing to earn the seal, and periodic testing to maintain the seal. There is no question about the label and ingredients matching, nor is there a need to hire third-party laboratories to conduct testing on those products that maintain their seal. I feel a bit a fool—especially with my gluten issues, I should know better—that I have blindly trusted labels of self-care products all these years.
My Final Words on Ava Anderson Non-Toxic
Since publishing my original post, I have received many comments and personal emails. I have been so impressed by the well-thought out comments people have written, about their take on the situation and how it impacts them. I have been very conflicted and have had a mixture of emotions. I wrote my original article because I feel it’s a fascinating case study, and there’s a lot that entrepreneurs can learn from it. Since Ava Anderson was the name and face of the company, she is the very heart of the company because they branded it as such. I still wish she had just stepped down from day-to-day activities instead of completely walking away and “closing doors.”
Even two weeks later, this mishandling of this situation—with no correction in sight—is still bizarre, confusing, and disappointing. Will the silence go on forever?
What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments below or fill out my contact form to reach me directly!
For more details, see my YouTube video taken from my 2/10/16 broadcast on Periscope and be sure to follow me @belowthefork across all social media