'Health foods champion' dies at 86

An herbalist who became known as "a health foods champion" through court battles with federal health regulators has died.

Jim Strauss died April 12 at 86. His death from accidental choking came after a decline in health that started about four months ago, his son Peter said Wednesday.

Strauss took up the family trade after suffering a heart attack when he was 57.

"He didn't want to do drugs or get a bypass," said Peter, who operates the family business today.

Strauss Sr. started Strauss Herb Co., a Kamloops-based herbal supplement distributor, from his basement in 1980.

As the story is related on the company's website, Strauss created an herbal mixture, Strauss Heart Drops, which he said brought him back to health.

That claim through labelling and published material brought him under the eye of Health Canada, which did extensive investigations and brought Jim Strauss and sons Jim Jr. and Peter to court.

In the three most recent cases, charges were eventually dropped or thrown out of court in what became a public battle between enforcing legislation aimed at protecting people from false advertising and the competing value of freedom of speech.

Kamloops lawyer Shawn Buckley represented Strauss in those actions as well as in his defence against a claim brought by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which charged him with practicing medicine.

That case was also eventually dropped by government.

"He was just so passionate," said Buckley.

He added that Strauss was known by people in the herbal and nutritional supplement industry as a health foods champion.

"In his mind he was helping people and the government couldn't tell him he couldn't."

Buckley, who then worked for a corporate firm, met Strauss after initially representing the federal government against him.

"Here this young lawyer (wins the case against him) and he takes me for lunch and we become friends. It says a lot about the man."

Peter said his father believed in his expertise and wouldn't let government stop him.

"He believed you fight for what's right and there should be a choice whether you take drugs or herbal medicines," Peter said of the legal fights with federal authorities.

Strauss immigrated to Canada from Hungary as a communist refugee in 1957. He was a skilled technician and worked in positions including utilities management and fixing equipment. The family moved to Kamloops in 1968.

Following his heart attack, Strauss's passion turned to herbal medicine, something his grandmother trained him in as a boy.

His renown, by word of mouth long before the Internet, attracted sick people from all over North America, Peter said. He gave lectures across the country.

"It just got crazy with people showing up at 6 a.m. (at the home-based business) and not leaving until 3 a.m. They'd drive from all over Canada and the United States Not only did he sell them a product, he gave them education while they were here."

Funeral services are planned for April 20 at noon at Kamloops Funeral Home.


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