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Ad From NZ's Largest Natural Health Retailer Misleading

Ad From NZ's Largest Natural Health Retailer Misleading

The Advertising Standards Authority has today upheld a complaint against Health 2000. The complaint, regarding therapeutic claims made in an email advert about "GO Healthy Vir-Defence", was made by the Society for Science Based Healthcare on the 12th of May.

The advert made claims that the product's ingredients "have been found to be effective at keeping lurgies at bay, help support the body when bugs do hit, while helping build immune health", and that the product is "designed to support recovery from ills and chills".

The advertisement also used a variety of vague terms such as "lurgies", "bugs", and "ills and chills" instead of referring directly to illnesses such as the common cold and influenza. In response to this being pointed out in the complaint, Health 2000 stated that:

"The complainant must surely be aware that the use of vague and ill-defined terms is not a choice in this industry."

The only substantiation provided by the advertiser was that for one of the ingredients, zinc; there is some evidence that it may produce a reduction in the duration of a cold when taken at a dose of > 75 mg/day. However, the Health 2000’s product contains 5mg of zinc per capsule, and Health 2000 recommends that only 1 or 2 capsules be taken per day.

The Advertising Standards Complaints Board said:

"the advertisement was likely to mislead consumers as the claims made were [not] substantiated by the Advertiser in breach of Principle 2 of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code" and that "the advertisement did not observe a high standard of social responsibility to consumers and society required by advertisements for therapeutic products and was in breach of Principle 3 [of the] Therapeutic Products Advertising Code".

As a result, and despite the fact that the advertisement had been approved by the Therapeutic Advertising Prevetting System (TAPS), the ASA ruled to uphold the complaint.

The Society for Science Based Healthcare also lodged a direct complaint with Health 2000 regarding their bimonthly magazine. The June-July 2014 magazine stated that the flu vaccine is an "onslaught of mercury and toxins", despite the flu vaccine in New Zealand containing neither mercury nor toxins. Thiomersal, a mercury-containing preservative, has been the subject of much anti-vaccine fear mongering worldwide despite a large body of evidence supporting its safety at the levels delivered by vaccines. The flu vaccine in New Zealand does not contain thiomersal, and this information is readily available from the website http://www.fightflu.co.nz.

In response to this complaint, Health 2000 has promised to print a "clarification" in the next issue of their magazine stating that the flu vaccine in New Zealand does not contain mercury. They will also be expanding their disclaimer. Health 2000 also said that:

"We acknowledge that as New Zealand's largest natural health retailer our brand is prominent and subject to greater scrutiny, but this is the third complaint from Mr Hanna this year. We wonder why he is not complaining about the outrageous claims we see our competitors getting away with in print."

The society finds it concerning that New Zealand's self-professed "largest natural health retailer" feels "the use of vague and ill-defined terms is not a choice in this industry", and that they seem to be aware of "outrageous claims we see our competitors getting away with in print". Consumers should be wary that not everything they are told by sellers of "natural health" products and services may be true or supported by evidence.

Regarding these claims, Mr Hanna said:

“I have made 19 other complaints about seemingly misleading therapeutic claims this year, and I have not targeted Health 2000 specifically.”

Two other ASA complaints from the Society for Science Based Healthcare were also released today.

One complaint was upheld against Ear Candles By Louise, who had advertised misleading claims on their website that ear candles are able to produce therapeutic benefits such as relieving ear infections and sinus pain.

Another complaint was settled against Simillimum Homeopathic Pharmacy, who agreed to remove misleading claims that homeopathy is "highly effective" and "scientifically proven" from their website.

Last week, another ASA complaint from the Society for Science Based Healthcare against an email advertisement for Camu Camu was settled. The advertiser, In2Herbs, said that:

"The advertisement is misleading and should not have been sent out in its existing context and we apologise for our actions."

The Society for Science Based Healthcare is pleased with these decisions, and hopes that advertisers such as these will refrain from making therapeutic claims that are not supported by rigorous evidence.


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