Dealers Use False Claims to Sell Cookware

Two years ago, Tom and Victoria Garret spent $1,000 on cookware, thinking that the pots and pans they would cook with would shield their future family from disease.

Now, the couple believes they were tricked into the purchase by salespeople who told them that other types of cookware — such as non-stick pans — can cause chemical reactions in the pan that lead to health problems.

"I thought, my goodness, if we want to have kids we don't want to give toxic fumes to the child, so we bought into the scam," said Victoria Garrett.

The Virginia salespeople who sold the couple their set of Royal Prestige cookware told them that the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health endorsed the products, the couple said. But the cookware is not endorsed by either of those prestigious health organizations.

It is not the first time that some distributors of Royal Prestige cookware have been accused of deceptive sales practices, Good Morning America Consumer Correspondent Greg Hunter found. Royal Prestige cookware distributors have already run into trouble with attorneys general in two states, and Hunter's investigation found that some cookware salespeople are still going full steam ahead with scare tactics to sell pots and pans.

The Aluminum Connection?

Steve Pollack, who runs a franchise selling Royal Prestige, is part of a nationwide system of houseware dealers who market the cookware directly to groups. Like Pollack, many dealers target newlyweds and engaged couples, luring them into attending cookware sales presentation by offering them free vacations at four-star beach hotels.

At one such presentation in Westbury, N.Y., Pollack compared some aluminum cookware with Royal Prestige cookware, which is made of stainless steel.

"This is the absolute worst," Pollack told his audience, holding aloft some aluminum cookware. "Aluminum is the cause of Alzheimer's. Aluminum is the worst thing for you."

The salesman went on to describe the supposed impacts of aluminum on the human body.

"Your body is able to intake aluminum, but can't withdraw it," a "medical expert" accompanying Pollack said. "Your brain stem is a fatty tissue … aluminum sticks to fatty tissue."

Those claims did not hold much weight with Dr. Victor Herbert, a nutritionist who works at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, one of the largest Alzheimer's research centers in the country. Herbert said that there is no connection between aluminum and Alzheimer's.

He is also a nutritionist on the board of Quackwatch, a group that debunks false medical claims. Quackwatch checked out the Royal Prestige sales pitch about aluminum cookware.

"Our people looked into this claim," Herbert said. "It's pure fraud."

Trouble in Other States

Last August, the attorney general for the state of Texas found that Royal Prestige's "free vacation" offers included coverage for the hotel only, and that the company failed to disclose that airfare is not included.

Two years ago in California, the attorney general there said Royal Prestige made false claims by telling consumers that other brands of cookware could cause health problems. In both the Texas and the California cases, Royal Prestige agreed to change its sales practices, but didn't admit guilt.

Pollack refused to speak with Good Morning America, but Royal Prestige told the ABCNEWS program that it has told its distributors, including Pollack, not to make false claims, prohibiting them from saying aluminum can cause health problems.

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