"HOUSEWIFE IN OHIO ACCIDENTALLY INVENTS A BREAD THAT MIRACULOUSLY STOPS YOUR APPETITE AND HUNGER," bannered the full-page ad placed in newspapers across the country last month."NO-HUNGER BREAD said to beat all diet fads hands down. It's the fastest, painless way to lose weight."
Worth a nibble? Thousands of consumers who apparently thought so sent $10 each to the "American Health Institute" in Canton, Ohio, for the dough mix, enough to make four loaves. But the No-Hunger Bread became no-delivery bread yesterday when federal agents, acting on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration, seized 20,000 cartons of the pre-packaged mix at the United Parcel Service terminal in Cleveland. An FDA spokesman yesterday called the product "grossly deceptive."
According to the FDA, a brochure for the bread claimed the product would prevent heart attacks, colon disorders, cancer, constipation, appendicitis, varicose veings, phlehibitis, hemorrhoids and obesity.
According to the newspaper ad, "Nancy Sperry," the Ohio housewife, discovered the No-Hunger Bread recipe while trying to duplicate the high-fiber diet of the Hunzas (Himalayan mountain dwellers famous for their longevity as described by James Hilton in "Lost Horizon"). She was assisted, according to the ad, by her husband. "Benjamin Sperry," named in the ad as a researcher with the American Health Institute.
But it may be a long way to Shangri-La.
Ten days ago the Ohio Department of Agriculture, acting at the request of the FDA, placed an embargo on the bread shipments.That was followed by yesterday's seizure.
The spokesman for the FDA, Wayne Pines, said yesterday, "The charge we're making is that the product is false and misleading. It makes drug and health claims that are not substantiated. The public is being misled. These people are claiming that No-Hunger Bread is nutritionally superior to whole wheat bread. All it is whole wheat bread with a little fruit oil.
According to the Ohio company, "The ingredients are stone-ground whole wheat flour, pure liquid honey, non-fat dry milk, dry butter, apricot oil, oatmeal, fennel, alfalfa, almond meal and yeast.
"It won't kill anybody," said FDA investigator Taylor Quinn, who has worked on the case, "but we're going after it for false advertising and illegal labeling of the product.
No-Hunger Bread is the brainchild of 38-year-old Benjamin Suarez (Benjamin Sperry in the ad) who is the president of a mail-order company, Publishing Corporation of America, the folks who brought you the Bio-Calendar Health System along with various self-improvement books. Suarez said yesterday he owns both the publishing firm and the American Health Institute.
"I was looking for a diet program," he said by telephone from Ohio, "and we started hearing about the Hunzas and their high-fiber diet. I tried to get my wife [Nancy Suarez, Nancy Sperry in the ad] to come up with a recipe for a bread."
Suarez said he had tried every diet in the book, including the liquid protein/fasting diet, which he thinks is "dangerous." Suarez said he lost 40 pounds on the No-Hunger Bread diet, which consists of eating one or two slices of bread in lieu of (or before) meals. Suarez also said he worked with doctors and nutritionists, but declined yesterday to name them.
As for his research credentials, Suarez said he received a science degree from the University of Akron. A check with their records office showed that Suarez graduated in 1967 with a B.A. in psychology.
"Well, that's true," the entrepreneur said. "Psychology is a science. I don't know why they call it an art."
Suarez met with his lawyers yesterday in Canton and said he will seek an injunction against the FDA's seizure. He said he also plans to slap NBC with a lawsuit for a report by consumer reporter Betty Furness during Thursday morning's "Today" show. Suarez called her report on the bread "50 percent inaccurate."
"There's nothing wrong with the labeling and nothing wrong with the advertising. Everything is true. I'm not going to put up with anybody debasing me or my product. This is America. You're allowed to make a profit," Suarez said.
Suarez has already taken his case to the public. On Feb. 16, he placed another full-page advertisement in several newspapers in the form of an open letter to President Carter, complaining of "bureaucratic harassment," by an unnamed government agency.
Meanwhile, the company was still taking orders yesterday. When asked for the recipe for No-Hunger Bread, one company telephone operator said, "If we gave that away, there would be no point in selling the bread."