The Investigators: What's In The Jug? - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: What's In The Jug?

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"He is in violation (of Food & Drug Administration codes)," said Phyllis McNeill, manager of the Shelby County health department's Bureau of Environmental Sanitation. "He is in violation (of Food & Drug Administration codes)," said Phyllis McNeill, manager of the Shelby County health department's Bureau of Environmental Sanitation.
His product carries no ingredient label. It has no FDA approval. His product carries no ingredient label. It has no FDA approval.
Butler offers no disclosure to his customers about what's in the liquid. Butler offers no disclosure to his customers about what's in the liquid.
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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Shelby County health officials said they intend to question an East Memphis personal trainer for selling a dubious health drink out of the trunk of his car in violation of federal health regulations.

"He is in violation (of Food & Drug Administration codes)," said Phyllis McNeill, manager of the Shelby County health department's Bureau of Environmental Sanitation. "Food cannot be sold from the back of a car."

Taji ('T.J.') Butler, a personal trainer who boasts more than 5,000 followers on his Instagram account brimming with pictures and videos of his clients, also uses the account to advertise a "belly-fat burning green tea." He posts his cell number on his account to arrange delivery or pick-up of the drink. He sells it for $25 a gallon out of the trunk of his car.

His product carries no ingredient label. It has no FDA approval. Butler offers no disclosure to his customers about what's in the liquid.

"I can't get into the (medicinal)," he told The Action News 5 Investigators as we bought a gallon of his concoction under hidden camera. "I can't get into ...OK...because, you know, the FDA gets all..." he trailed off with a knowing smile to our undercover producers.

Under hidden camera, Butler made a significant weight loss claim about his "tea."

"Average gallon is going to give you five to 12 pounds -- that's weight loss," he said.

We delivered the $25 gallon we purchased to Dennis Akin, a former forensic chemist for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and owner/forensic scientist of AK Analytical Forensic & Scientific Investigations in Hendersonville, TN. Akin analyzed the liquid for drug content and for active/inactive ingredients.

We had Akin's analysis reviewed by two nutrition experts:  Natalie Owens, nutrition agent for the University of Tennessee Shelby County Extension Service and nutrition counselor Leslie P. Schilling.

Akin's analysis revealed the only components of the tea are caffeine and turpenes, which are a natural plant by-product.

"Turpenes have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties...however, no research I'm finding suggests that they have fat-burning properties," Schilling said.

Both Schilling and Owens said caffeine does not have fat-burning properties, either. "No, not at all," said Owens. "We don't have any solid data to prove that caffeine will contribute to significant amount of weight loss."

When confronted, Butler admitted he is violating FDA regulations as far as the sale of his product. 

He also admitted that caffeine is the major ingredient, but he insisted there's another active ingredient in the tea, "...and I'm not telling you what it is," he said.

"Whether I violated this or I violated that, you cannot stop the influence that it works," he said.

"He's awesome," said Kenyawn Wilson, one of Butler's fitness clients. She said she hired him as her personal trainer in 2009 and has been working out under his supervision three to five days a week ever since.

"I have lost 80 pounds," she said, sharing pictures of her progress. "I've lost well over 50 inches."

She said she has consumed Butler's tea. When we asked her if it has contributed to her weight loss, she answered, "I haven't been paying attention to it because I'm more concerned with my workout. Definitely, I wouldn't still be going this long if his results weren't proven true."

"Choosing a trainer is very much 'buyer beware' since there is no universal 'proper' certification, like a medical license," said Dr. Brian Schilling, Leslie Schilling's husband and an associate professor of health and sports sciences at the University of Memphis.

"Look for a combination of education, certification and experience," Schilling said. "A bachelor's or master's degree in exercise science/nutrition plus a certification would give you the best choice."

Schilling recommended the certifications of the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA); the American Council on Exercise (ACE); the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM); and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

Debby Williamson - an Eads, TN, certified personal trainer - recommended the trainer search engine of the IDEA Health & Fitness Association. The database includes the contact and certification information of trainers certified by the organizations Schilling recommended.

Butler's certification is from the U.S. Career Institute. It is affiliated with the National Council on Strength & Fitness.

He also claimed to have a bachelor's degree from Jackson State University in Jackson, MS, but he said he couldn't remember if it is in health care management or in health care administration. 

"I ran four years of track and field in college," he said. "That's enough to certify me in how the body works."

JSU's registrar's office would not release Butler's transcripts or proof of graduation, citing privacy laws.

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