Monday, 18 October 2010

Letter to Trading Standards re BioFirm Danish Detox Plan

Dear Trading Standards

I wish to complain about the sale of "BioFirm Danish Detox Plan" by Boots UK Ltd. Specifically, I am concerned by the marketing claim that this product "is a gentle, yet effective formula, containing herbs which naturally supports the body’s own internal processes of elimination and detoxification."

The Consumer Protection Regulations 2008 require the company to be able to back up any claims with evidence. However I can find no evidence that such "detox" formulations provide any benefit.

Indeed, Dr Catherine Collins (Chief Dietician, St George’s Hospital Medical School, London) is reported as saying "The concept of 'detox' is a marketing myth rather than a physiological entity."

Professor Edzard Ernst (Professor of Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter) has been quoted as saying "The basic concept that our bodies need help eliminating toxins is both wrong and potentially dangerous....Proponents of various detox therapies have never been able to demonstrate that their treatments actually decrease the level of any specific substance in the body."

The marketing of such detox products may also be hazardous to health. Professor Ernst has warned "A person might easily get the idea that they can over-indulge, i.e. poison his or her “system” with toxins, and then put everything right by applying this or that detox method. This could prompt many people to live unhealthy lifestyles in the belief they could avoid harm by periodic detoxification."

If Boots UK Ltd are not able to produce robust evidence that this product does indeed work, they should not be selling it, as a customer may be misled into believing this product to be anything other than worthless.

Yours sincerely,



Thanks to Simon Perry, firstly for inspiring me to some skeptical trouble-making with his recent talk at SitP Oxford, and then for removing any remaining excuses for inaction.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Aussie anti-vaccination group loses charitable status

Oh, this is good.

Of all the peddlers of fraudulent, bogus and dangerous healthcare advice, it's the anti-vaccinationists that stir me most to anger. Of the anti-vaxxers, few deserve censure more than the AVN and its head, Meryl Dorey.

To the unwary, the Australian Vaccination Network might sound like a responsible establishment promoting public health through immunisation, but in fact they are the opposite. Through their persistent campaigning against the use of vaccines they have reduced the immunisation rates in some areas of Australia to desperately low levels.

Dana McCaffery was just 4 weeks old when she died from pertussis (whopping cough) in March last year. She was far too young to be vaccinated herself and in the North Coast region of New South Wales, the home of the AVN, far too few people around Dana had protective immunity. There is no cure for whopping cough.

If you can, read the account by Dana's parents. Their fortitude is remarkable.

Even before the baby's funeral Meryl Dorey was telephoning the Director of Public Health for the NSW North Coast, trying to obtain the private details Dana's death and disputing the diagnosis.

Within days, the Toni and David McCaffery were confronting the AVN on national television, during which debate Meryl Dorey continued to try to dispute the facts of Dana's death. As Meryl has previously said, on the subject of measles and whooping cough:
“You didn’t die from it 30 years ago and you’re not going to die from it today”.
(Needless to say, Meryl is no doctor of medicine).

I wonder what Meryl thinks of the 9 infants that have already died in the ongoing pertussis epidemic in California.

So it's encouraging to read that the Australian authorities are acting to limit the activities of the AVN. Public awareness of the need to vaccinate is growing, through initiatives like this and this. In this pro-vaccination movement, the work of Toni and David McCaffery is a big inspiration.


Many thanks to Phil Plait and Rachael Dunlop for keeping me up to date with the anti-vaxxers' shenanigans.