Kratom Watchdog Group Chides News Media for “Blindly” Touting FDA’s “Leafer Madness War” on Coffee-Like Botanical

#EpicFail: Misleading FDA News Release “Basically Just Rewritten” by Most News Organizations with No Effort to Provide “Any Semblance of Balance or Even-Handed Reporting.”

WASHINGTON--()--A headline in a June 25th news release issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration incorrectly implied that kratom is an “illegal, unapproved drug product,” and this error was further compounded by a torrent of unfair and unbalanced reporting by more than two dozen news organizations, according to the Kratom Information & Resource Center (KIRC), an independent, media watchdog organization devoted to fighting for the truth about kratom.

Media organizations that generated unfair and unbalanced coverage include NBC News, Reuters, AP (NC bureau), UPI, Consumer Affairs, CNBC, Medical Daily, Drug Topics, Pharmacy Times, Whole Foods Magazine, Washington Examiner, Biospace and Natural Products Insider. (See below for more detail.) Those news outlets that produced stories that made some effort to be balanced from the outset or after contact with KIRC include: Gizmodo, Inverse, Healio, USA Today, Pain News Network, and Filter.

The FDA announcement about two companies was exploited and turned into a broadside attack in the agency’s ongoing ‘Leafer Madness’ war on kratom,” said Max Karlin, spokesperson, Kratom Information & Resource Center. “What should have been a routine FDA announcement was used by the agency as an opportunity to crowbar in all of their kratom attacks, most of which had nothing to do with the two companies involved. This problem was compounded when reporters just swallowed the whole FDA anti-kratom agenda hook, line and sinker and then failed in most cases to provide any semblance of balanced or even-handed reporting.”

Karlin added: “A federal agency news release that is basically just rewritten lightly and then published is not a story. It is not journalism. There are an estimated 13 million American consumers of kratom and their rights are being trampled, ignored and marginalized by this kind of sloppy reporting that qualifies as a journalism #epicfail of the first order.”

Examples of unbalanced or entirely uncritical coverage related to the FDA’s June 25th assault on kratom include the following:

  1. NBC News uncritically used the faulty FDA headline reference to “unapproved … drugs.” Kratom is not a drug or a synthetic substance. It is a plant. Reuters and CNBC were among other news organization using the FDA “drug” or “drugs” language. Drug Topics went as far as to suggest that kratom is “still not legally marketed in the U.S.”

  2. Medical Daily incorrectly stated that kratom has “proven opioid compounds,” a clear indication that the continuing FDA efforts to falsely label kratom as an opiate are gaining ground. Kratom is not an opiate. It is a shrub in the coffee family.

  3. Several news organizations uncritically reported what the FDA claimed about addiction and death. One or both of these themes were raised by several news organizations, including Consumer Affairs, Reuters, Pharmacy Times, Whole Foods Magazine without balancing information. In fact, there are ample expert views that kratom is no more addictive than other widely available consumer products and may provide some relief to addicts. Further, an April 2019 report concludes a direct causative link between the fatalities in which kratom was detected cannot be drawn,” despite assertions to the contrary by federal officials campaigning to ban kratom. All of this balancing information was readily accessible to reporters and should have been referenced to offset the overheated FDA attack on kratom.

  4. Several stories had zero balancing information providing a perspective other than the FDA on the broader range of issues raised by the agency. Offenders here included Associated Press (NC), Washington Examiner and UPI.

  5. A number of news organizations barely bothered to rewrite the FDA news release, but still passed it off as news. This is evident at Natural Products Insider and Biospace. In neither case was the published content labeled as a FDA news release.

Unfair and unbalanced reporting is the rule of thumb today when it comes to kratom. A KIRC media analysis published on May 22nd showed that an astonishing 92 percent of nearly 2,500 stories about kratom published between February 1-May 17, 2019 were unfair and unbalanced.

The Kratom Information & Resource Center analysis of 2,500 kratom stories over the roughly 15-week period looked at how kratom was covered and where: “Kratom faces a tsunami of unfair and unbalanced media coverage today: 92 percent of kratom coverage is negative, with little or no balancing information. Only about 6 percent of kratom coverage was found to be neutral/balanced. Negative coverage of kratom is driven by local media, which tend to be more unfair/unbalanced in their approach than national reporters. 90 percent of all kratom news coverage is local.”

Last week, the Kratom Information & Resource Center launched a major effort to round up video stories from the ranks of America’s 13 million consumers of the coffee-like botanical kratom. The holiday-themed Kratom Nation initiative asks kratom consumers to talk about their rights and freedoms as they relate to kratom. All are welcome to submit videos, but KIRC hopes Kratom Nation will find special resonance with veterans, who are a significant portion of kratom consumers.


The Kratom Information & Resource Center is an independent, media watchdog organization devoted to fighting for the truth about kratom. KIRC undertakes research, education and direct one-on-one outreach to promote fair and balanced news coverage of kratom. Support for KIRC efforts are welcome from the kratom industry and other sources, however KIRC maintains 100-percent editorial control over its activities and materials. @KratomFact on Twitter

All key individuals associated with the Kratom Information & Resource Center also were involved in the successful 2016 campaign to stop the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s push to schedule kratom as an illegal drug.


Max Karlin, (703) 276-3255, or


Max Karlin, (703) 276-3255, or