If you were considering putting in a call to a company advertising "Growth Spurt" pills on a local radio station, don't.
It sounds appealing -- the company's website, geared toward parents of children who are too small to succeed in sports, says it's the "safest height advancement program ... considered a stepping stone to a college scholarship" that will "give your child the competitive edge they have always needed." And a call to their ordering hotline will be answered by someone who, before you even ask, will tell you that the pills offer "growth, as well as strength, leading to a more promising athletic career down the road."
But a Florida nutrition expert says, unsurprisingly, that the pills are useless unless your goal is damaging children's kidneys. And it appears they're being sold by Steven, Joey, and Tom Fata, career hucksters who sell everything from posters to guitars on the Internet. They've been taken to courts across the country with their scams, and they're hocking their drugs in Miami.
When Florida International University professor Dr. Fatma Huffman was read just part of the list of ingredients, the first thing she said was "Oh my god."
The company claims the ingredients help the body produce human growth hormone. Huffman said she was "bewildered by anybody crazy enough to market such a product, and to children no less."
She said the amino acids in the pills are essential to some organisms, "but humans are not one of them." She added that the recommended regimen "sounds like a very, very dangerous course of action" because of the risk of organ damage resulting from the added strain put on the kidneys to filter out .
"Good grief," she said, as she found out more of the ingredients. "These people are nuttier than I thought... Any parent who would be doing this is almost negligent. Child endangerment."
And as for the company selling Growth Spurt, "Promax Neutraceuticals" -- their website's domain name, "promaxdirect.com," was registered in April but the actual company doesn't exist, according to records from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
The Fata name isn't linked to the domain registration, but the address given to the domain registrar is the same as the one for the brothers' Labor Law Poster Service, and the address given on the Growth Spurt website matches the one given for Steven Fata's corporate registration for an online music store called Vintage City Guitars. In addition, a call to Growth Spurt was returned from the phone number listed as the Vintage City Guitars phone number.
In addition to Growth Spurt's medical uselessness, its "ingredients" page appears to be copied almost entirely from the ingredient descriptions for "Peak Height Height Maximizer," another get-big-quick pill whose domain was registered in 2009, though it's unclear who the original author of the claims is. In either case, Huffman insists the facts presented on the websites are simply not true. Though at least Peak Height bothered to create meaningless graphs to support their claims:
And while it doesn't look like Promax Neutraceuticals is a company, it does share a Michigan address with a ProMax Environmental Sciences, a registered corporation that is listed in Michigan corporate filings as specializing in "landscape supplies" and in the Lansing Yellow Pages under "weed control." Steven Fata is registered as the president, secretary, treasurer, and director.
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The Fatas could not be reached for comment; a woman who answered the phone at their poster company said employees were directed to only give out a fax number to contact the brothers.
A call to Growth Spurt was returned by an advertising representative named Carla, who said she would have to pass information along to someone else but could not say whom. She later answered the phone at Vintage City Guitars and said it was complicated to find exactly the right person to speak with, but that the owners are "going to be a little hard to find."
She also said the assertion that Growth Spurt was harmful was "totally not correct," but couldn't say when someone would be able to comment further.