FOX13 Investigates: Lawsuit claims weight loss tea is costing jobs

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    MEMPHIS, Tenn. — You may have seen the claims on social media. Drink tea, lose weight.

    A tea promises to detox your body, improve your mood and help with weight management. But several women say that tea cost them their jobs.

    Total Life Changes sells vitamins and supplements for weight loss, hair and skin care, and increased energy. Women in several states say they lost their jobs after drinking the company’s raspberry lemonade tea.

    The tea sounds harmless, but the women claim they failed drug tests because it contained THC, the chemical found in marijuana.

    D’etta Friday is a diabetic mother of two. She was looking for a way to get healthier when she saw ads on social media about Total Life Changes products. Friday says she was “looking for a way to drop my A1c level (a measure of one’s long-term blood sugar level).”

    A friend sold her the company’s raspberry lemonade-flavored Iaso tea. She followed the directions and drank a sachet every day. A few weeks later she was injured at her manufacturing job. As part of the worker’s compensation claim, she had to undergo a drug test. She was shocked when the lab called her with the results.

    Friday says they asked her how long she had been using marijuana. She said, “What? Marijuana? No, I don’t do drugs.”

    Friday was fired, and she blames it on TLC’s tea.

    Here’s what happened when she tried to explain it to her boss.

    “I told him it says 0.0 THC. This is what I’ve been taking. I do not do drugs,” she said.

    She says they escorted her to human resources and took her badge.

    She’s not the only one. Belinda Granger is a nurse in Florida. She lost weight from drinking the raspberry lemonade tea, and liked it so much she became a distributor. But when Granger applied for a new nursing job last fall, she failed the drug test.

    “I was clueless, devastated and, of course, I was questioning: ‘Are you sure you have the right person?’” Granger said. “I have never taken marijuana. I’ve never smoked a cigarette and I don’t even drink.”

    Granger emailed and called the company. She said they made her feel as if she did something wrong.

    The packaging for TLC’s raspberry lemonade Iaso tea clearly states it contains hemp extract, but not THC.

    Hemp-derived products are legal if they have less than 3.3% THC.

    Our investigators took samples to Avazyme Incorporated in North Carolina for testing. The lab’s CEO, Dr. Volker Bornemann, said in both samples, they found trace amounts of THC. That’s the ingredient in marijuana that produces a feeling of being high.

    “8.2 parts per million for this sample, and this sample shows 17.3, which is a low amount, but it is exact and measurable,” Bornemann said.

    We asked if those amounts are enough for someone to fail a drug test.

    “Potentially, yes,” Bornemann said.

    He explained that THC can build up in a person’s system with repeated consumption. The package instructs users to drink a sachet of tea every day.

    Our investigators contacted Total Life Changes about the claims from women who told us they failed drug tests. We told them an independent lab found THC in their product and asked for an interview.

    We received a statement from TLC’s Craig Cole, the Director of Public Relations for Total Life Changes.

    The statement reads in part, “We are aware of the allegations about one of our tea products. At TLC, we care deeply about our customers and are committed to their well-being. We are in the process of learning more about the relevant facts, but are not in a position to report more fully at this time.”

    Granger says if you want to lose weight, do it the right way. She immediately stopped selling the Total Life Changes products.

    Like Granger, Friday says the tea cost her everything.

    “I lost my health insurance. I lost my 401(k). I emptied that out to survive,” she said.

    She hired Attorney Kate Hollist who said, “These are blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth people. These are people who are good workers and family and community members who are not drug users.”

    Friday is one of the plaintiffs in three class-action lawsuits we’ve uncovered. As a result of the legal action, Total Life Changes has now released a statement that reads, in part: “Out of an abundance of caution … TLC has advised persons subject to drug testing to not drink Iaso Raspberry tea.”

    If you have failed a drug test after using this tea, contact Valerie Calhoun at Valerie.calhoun@fox13memphis.com.

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