Opinion: Mailbox littering

POSTED: 08/3/11 1:09 PM

Seven Seas is a company that markets so-called over the counter health products. They’re not really medication, but the company suggests strongly that you’ll be better off when using them. One of those products is Immune Plus, and Seven Seas thought it an excellent idea to provide our newspaper with a sample.

No half measures, they must have thought at the company’s headquarters in Hull in the United Kingdom. They called in UPS and sent no less than three packages overseas. If one editor would overlook the mail, certainly the next guy would stumble upon the gift, swallow a couple of tablets and ensure, as the boisterous leaflet included in the shipment stated, that he would “stay fighting fit.”

But Seven Seas went into overkill mode, in such a way that, had they had the ill-advised idea to send this stuff to, say, Jadira Veen at the St. Maarten Pride Foundation, the company would have become the target of stern lessons in how not to litter people’s physical mailboxes.

To understand all of this it is good to establish that the Immune Plus tablets come in a tube that easily fits in the palm of your hand. The UPS guys provide a sturdy plastic envelope to ship the merchandise.

The envelope is about six times the width of an Immune Plus tube and three times the length. On top, the plastic Express pack UPS uses is a tough material. It is near impossible to rip it open with your bare hands, so it is not difficult to imagine how this material will hold up once it arrives at the garbage dump. It will stay there like, forever.

Stuck on the outside of this envelope is a transparent plastic envelope that contains an A4-sized paper shipping label and a signed pro forma invoice printed on Seven Seas correspondence paper. It states that the package contains 1 leaflet and 1 product sample of Haliborange Immune Plus and that its approximate value is one British pound (a bit more than $1.60). Apparently, the exact value of a tube filled with ten Immune Plus tablets is not known. The letter is hand signed by Seven Seas’ international market coordinator Melissa Scrowston.

Inside the plastic UPS envelope we found a sturdy cardboard box of 13.5x11x7 centimeters. The box contained one tube of Immune Plus, but because the box was so much larger than the tube, Seven Seas had stuffed a piece of red crepe paper in it, probably to avoid rattling.

The box also contained a small leaflet depicting the Immune Plus tube and singing the product’s praises in pumped-up marketing lingo. “Boost cheap generic valium online your immune system and live life to the max,” and “The power to fight back” – stuff like that. For good measure, the leaflet states that the tablets have a “delicious tropical flavor”, and that it is okay to use the product up to three times a day.

Immune Plus contains 1000 milligram of vitamin C per tablet. How this is going to boost energy levels is unclear, certainly if one were to take three of these energy bombs a day, because the body does not get pumped up on vitamin C. It is commonly accepted that 60 milligram a day is sufficient, and a balanced diet with sufficient fruit and vegetables provides this.

The human body absorbs vitamin C easily, but above doses of 200 milligram the ability to absorb strongly declines. The body ejects excessive vitamin C via the urine.

There is yet another reason to be careful with excessive vitamin C consumption; it could lead to symptoms of vitamin C-deficiency when someone who has been taking high doses like in Immune Plus for a long time. This would of course induce people to start using the tablets again.

But we digress. Also in the UPS package was an A4-sized leaflet designed to put the fear of god into people who are about to go on vacation. What to think of this text: “(…) how can you keep your immune system strong and insure you’re in fighting form for your summer vacation? The last thing you want is a cold or flu as you head off on your journey to your week of sun.”

Seven Seas has found that people are one hundred times more likely to catch a cold on a plane than in “normal life.” Unfortunately for Seven Seas, a Cochrane –review has found that taking mega doses of vitamin C has no effect whatsoever on the prevention of common colds, let alone the flu.

We got the message though, because Seven Seas sent one oversized plastic UPS-envelope to Sanny Ensing (who does not work here anymore), one to Lisa Burnett (who does not work here anymore either), and one to Hilbert Harr, who actually goes by the name of Hilbert Haar.

One colleague took the three tubes of Immune Plus, though we feel now that we have to warn him against using the product. We also had to throw three UPS plastic envelopes in the garbage, together with three cardboard boxes, three pieces of red crepe paper, as well as three large and three small leaflets. But at least we had the opportunity to refresh our knowledge of vitamin C.

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