Katy Perry is, apparently, out to ruin our gut health. “A couple months ago my friend told me that Bragg changed their potency,” he says TikTok user @tennesseejill. On December 18, she filmed a shelf of bottles of Bragg apple cider vinegar at a grocery store, which seemingly shows two different batches of what fans call ACV: one darker with some more visible sediment, and the other paler. Though honestly, if you didn’t know what you were supposed to be looking for, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference. “I didn’t want to believe,” says @tennesseejill. “I thought this was a brand I could trust.” Underneath her video are thousands of comments agreeing with her, saying they’re heartbroken and are now desperately in search of another brand. And many of these comments are placing the blame on the same person: Perry.
Across social media, adherents of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar are raging at the pop star who brought us Left Shark, claiming she ruined their favorite product, because as it turns out, Perry, partner Orlando Bloom, and a few other rich folks bought the company in 2019.
“To make it more profitable they are diluting the ACV by watering it down,” he says Twitter user @RooPhoria. Instagram user @nikkimarie_crunchycorner says she will never buy Bragg again. In a statement to Eater, Linda Boardman, chief executive officer at Bragg Live Food Products, said there has been no change in the formula for their apple cider vinegar, and she attributes any differences consumers notice to natural variations in an organic product. “Because Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar is a live, unpasteurized and unfiltered product, color variation is expected. This variation can be attributed to the type of apples used, the season or the particular harvest, and the age of the living product within.”
Why are people so concerned about vinegar anyway?
It’s not just a change to salad dressings that these consumers are fretting about. For decades, ACV has been considered a health food that can help with a number of ailments. And much of that association is because of Bragg. In 1912, bodybuilder and health food advocate Paul Bragg founded Bragg’s Health Food Store, and by the 1920s he was selling products like apple cider vinegar, liquid aminos, date sweetener, and nutritional yeast under the name Bragg Live Foods. Bragg’s whole persona was a weird combination of health and Christianity; he often equated being sick to sinning, and spoke of health as a matter of morality. Bragg claimed ACV, at the time an un-researched folk remedy, was basically a cure-all. By the 1990s, Bragg ACV was available nationallyand it had become a staple of hippie and health communities.
Apple cider vinegar remains one of Bragg’s main products; the company describes it as the “original wellness elixir,” and says it can do everything from control your appetite to lower your cholesterol to tone your skin. It also sells a variety of flavored vinegars made for direct ingestion, “refresher” beverages, and ACV supplements. But according to many, the claims about ACV, and Bragg himself, are full of lies.
An October 2022 episode of the podcast Maintenance Phase outlines the litany of falsehoods surrounding Bragg Live Foods, including descriptions of ACV benefits that led Bragg to be targeted by the FDA, the FTC, and the USPS for making false and misleading claims; Paul Bragg lying about his age to convince people he was older than he was, and thus that his various wellness products kept him young; and the revelation that Patricia Bragg, who claimed to be Paul’s biological daughter, was actually his daughter-in-law. The company, which for many years featured Biblical scripture on the bottles, also donated money to right-wing organizations like Focus on the Family.
Apple cider vinegar is not the health food Bragg advertised. A 2022 report from USA Today says there’s little evidence it helps with weight loss and dietary issues, and that ingesting too much could cause tooth decay and throat issues. A 2020 study in the European Journal of Nutrition concluded that, although there’s no harm in ingesting ACV, “the evidence for the health effects of AV is insufficient.” But that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a mainstay of the wellness and “health” communities. Which, as always, intersects heavily with celebrity.
Wait, so why is Katy Perry here again?
Bloom, Perry’s partner and Legolas, explained the business transaction that led to their involvement with Bragg like it was divine providence. On on episode of The Tonight Show in September 2019, Bloom said he first bonded with Perry over their mutual love of ACV (ah, romance). But also, the Braggs were old family friends of the Perrys. According to two Maintenance Phase, Patricia Bragg attended the church where Perry’s parents were pastors. But Bloom said Perry’s mom mentioned that Patricia wanted to retire, and the two quickly assembled a group to take over Bragg Live Foods. “We believe in it that much,” he said.
Boardman said that in 2019 “Patricia Bragg, after serving as CEO for more than 40 years, decided to retire at age 90. She invited a group of investors, including her longtime friend and neighbor Katy Perry and her fiancée [sic] Orlando Bloom, to help carry the company into the next 100 years. Patricia still maintains part ownership of the company and a new management team was named to continue the Bragg legacy. We remain guided by the core values of maintaining high-quality and health-enhancing products. While Katy remains an active investor and avid Bragg fan, she is not engaged in the day-to-day management of the business.” This is also not Perry’s only foray into pseudoscientific wellness. Last year, she co-founded De Soi, a line of nonalcoholic drinks made with “natural adaptogens.”
Has Perry responded to the accusations?
So far, neither Perry nor Bloom have responded to the backlash, despite some people on her recent Instagram posts about shoes and American Idol commenting that they would rather have answers about the vinegar.
The panic is almost understandable. The pandemic, of course, kicked wellness culture into overdrive, with everyone understandably anxious about staying healthy and protecting themselves from illness in any way possible, and with plenty of hucksters claiming they had the one weird secret to boost your immune system. Apple cider vinegar sales on Amazon jumped 107 percent year over year between May 2019 and April 2021, with a huge leap coming between March and May 2020. It’s no surprise then that its adherents are more devoted than ever, and would be more likely to feel betrayed if they felt the ingredient responsible for their overall health was being diluted.
But given the evidence, it seems this is a matter of an unpopular batch and not Katy Perry single-handedly trying to ruin apple cider vinegar. That is good news! The bad news, or perhaps the obvious news, is that if you were using apple cider vinegar for anything but flavoring your meals, you may need to rethink your health routine.