Baltimore Ravens Postpone DNA Test Giveaway After Public Health Officials Get Involved

Image courtesy of @ORIG3N_Inc

If you showed up to the Baltimore Raven’s home opener on Sunday expecting to receive a free DNA test, you were likely sorely disappointed. The NFL team’s planned promotion with Orig3n was canceled at the last-minute following increased scrutiny from federal and state health officials. 

The Baltimore Sun reports that Orig3n and the Ravens will postpone the Ravens DNA Day until later this year, after the Maryland Health Department and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services raised concerns about the giveaway.

Putting It On Hold

The currently-scrapped promotion involved gifting 55,000 guests at M&T Bank Stadium a Raven’s-themed Orig3n DNA kit, complete with materials that exclaim “purple and black are in your genes — now find out what else is.”

The kits were billed as offering “insight into your mind, body and health.” Specifically, they would have tested four genes, including those that determine if a person has enhanced performance in power and spirit activities, as well as a gene that can predict an increased risk of low levels of Vitamin D.

Those taking part in the test, simply would have swabbed the inside of their cheek with the provided materials, and drop the sample into bins located in the stadium. Participants then register with the company online in order to receive their results.

But the promotion was put on hold before anyone could get their hands on the tests.

Orig3n confirmed to the Sun on Sunday that the giveaway was postponed in response to questions from state and federal officials.

“We are working to address questions from officials from the state of Maryland,” the Boston-based company said at the time without specifying the concerns.

However, the issues reportedly came to a head when HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) raised questions with the state about approvals for such tests, the Sun reports.

CMS said that Orig3n may be required to obtain certification related to laboratory testings of humans before the promotion can move forward.

A rep for the Maryland Department of Health confirmed to the Sun that it was looking into the promotion and whether Orig3n was following state laws.

For instance, direct-to-consumer lab testing is prohibited in Maryland, but genetic testing is allowed when conducted by approved labs.

“While the matter could not be remedied in time for (Sunday’s) game, the state health department is working with both the Ravens and Orig3n collaboratively to help resolve this issue,” the rep said.

As for when the new promotion will take place, that’s currently undecided.

“We received an overwhelmingly positive response to the first-ever DNA Day, and we remain committed to our mission,” Orig3n said in its statement to the Sun. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Ravens.”

Changing Privacy

While it appears that much of the state and federal concerns related to Orig3n tests involved the actual testing, others raised concerns about consumers’ privacy.

As we pointed out last week, dumping your DNA in a bin located in a very public place likely seems a bit disconcerting. Could someone take these vials? Is your personal information plastered all over the sample?

Orig3n claimed to use “stringent security standards” to ensure all information is protected. According to Orig3n, once the company receives a participant’s DNA, scientists analyze the sample and then about four weeks later a report will be available on the company’s LifeProfile app.

“All DNA test results are encrypted and sent via a smartphone app,” the company says on its website. DNA samples are attached to a barcode in the DNA Test Kit so that it is clear who the results belong to.

Orig3n noted that it collects users’ names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and credit card information. It may then use that information to improve customers service; respond to customer service requests; personalize user experience; and send periodic emails.

At some point in the last few days, the company has changed its privacy policy after concerns surfaced that users wouldn’t be able to understand or read the company’s policies during a lively football game, BuzzFeed News reports.

Orig3n tweaked its terms of service and privacy policy to clarify how it would handle customers’ genetic results and their personal information.

When it comes to genetic testing, Orig3n notes, “our users are the sole owners of their genetic information, and have the sole right to determine how that information is used. We will not use your genetic information for any purpose other than to provide the services, without your prior consent. By default, your genetic information will be kept private until such time, if any, as you consent to use of it in any other manner, or you choose to share your information with others.”

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.