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New Guideline Helps Stop Misleading Teething Necklace Sites

New Guideline Helps Stem the Tide of Misleading Teething Necklace Sites

A company advertising amber teething necklaces, Bambeado, has been made to remove misleading claims from its website after a complaint was laid with the Advertising Standards Authority, using a new guideline they helped develop alongside Medsafe in 2013. The decision the ASA has released today is the 16th one regarding amber teething necklaces since February 2013, and all 16 of those complaints were successful. The new advertising guideline was developed in response to the large number of advertisements for these products that were found to be misleading.

Many advertisers have claimed that amber will be warmed by skin contact, causing it to leak out succinic acid that will then be absorbed through the skin for therapeutic benefit. When confronted by the ASA, however, none of these advertisers have provided evidence that substantiates any of their claims. The new guideline lists a large number of unacceptable claims, many taken from advertisements that have been found to be misleading over the past year. Examples of unacceptable claims from the guideline include:

• “Do they really work? Yes they do”
• “When amber is warmed on the skin, the skin's warmth causes the amber to release trace amounts of healing oils”
• “Relieve or assist with teething pain in babies.”

Many parents turn to amber necklaces when their babies start teething, but they may not be aware that the claims made about these products are very often misleading and unsubstantiated. They are also not without risk, and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has issued a product safety warning, noting that “Babies should always be supervised when wearing amber necklaces – there is a risk for strangulation or a hanging hazard.”

Many other countries have also had problems with these products. Other government bodies such as Health Canada, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, and the UK Trading Standards Institute have also issued safety warnings similar to the one issued by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. Ireland’s Health Service Executive has also issued a safety warning, and the National Consumer Agency in Ireland has banned all sale of these products due to safety concerns. The French National Order of Pharmacists has banned French pharmacists from selling them as part of their ethical obligation to “contribute to the fight against quackery”.

All of these complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority regarding amber teething necklaces have been made by Mark Hanna, a consumer advocate from Auckland. Mark thinks the concept of informed consent is of the utmost importance when it comes to making health decisions, and finds it profoundly worrying that many therapeutic advertisements contain misleading claims. In raising these issues with the Advertising Standards Authority, he hopes to reduce the amount of misinformation in New Zealand advertising and thereby even the playing field for everyday people who are too busy to look into how much, or how little, evidence there is behind any particular claim.

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