NCAHF evolved from the constituents of three separate organizations that formed independently out of concerns about quackery in their communities. These were the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud, Inc. (LVCAHF, now caled Quackwatch), Southern California Council Against Health Fraud (SCCAHF), and a group without a formal name in northern California.
The idea of forming organizations to fight quackery was originated by Stephen Barrett, M.D. Dr. Barrett was alarmed about the success of health food industry publications in distorting health information and organized opposition to fluoridate the community's water supplies. He became aware of consumer health issues by reading The Medical Messiahs, which chronicled government efforts to control health hucksters in our society, and At Your Own Risk: The Case Against Chiropractic which exposed America's home-grown health-care cult. Barrett incorporated the LVCAHF in 1970. LVCAHF consisted of a variety of persons from a wide variety of lay persons and professionals from the Allentown, Pennsylvania area who functioned as a clearinghouse for health information and as an advocacy group supporting sound public health policy. Dr. Barrett's group was publicized in Nutrition News (December, 1974;34,#4). He contacted others who were concerned about the adverse effects of quackery upon society as he became aware of them.
In 1976, spurred by the success of laetrile promoters to dupe the media and get state legislatures to bypass the consumer protection features of the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act, consumer health education specialist, William Jarvis, PhD (then Assistant Professor in the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry's Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry) and Gordon Rick, DDS, MS, (then chairman of the Department of Oral Pathology) agreed on the need for a university-based public information source that could articulate to the public the sound reasoning of science that has been encoded into consumer protection law. Jarvis and Rick proposed to the LLU administration that a consumer health studies center be established. The Center was to be jointly funded by the various professional schools at LLU. Center faculty would teach consumer health courses or give lectures in courses already established in the Schools to help students become more aware of and able to deal with controversial health practices and consumer issues. Graduate students in the various schools who chose to do master's theses and doctoral dissertations in consumer health related fields could obtain advisement from the Center. The proposal was supported and presented to the LLU Administrative Council by Elmer E. Kelln, DDS, MS, Associate Dean of the School of Dentistry. The Council commended but did not accept the proposal because of concerns about how such an entity would fit within the universities organization of autonomous schools. Unable to establish a consumer health studies center, Jarvis and Rick sought community support for their concept. Jarvis visited Barrett and discussed the viability of a member-supported council against health fraud in 1976. In October of that year, LLU Academic Dean, Norman Woods, PhD, funded a community meeting to which were invited representatives of academia, basic science, health care, law, regulatory agencies, voluntary health agencies, the media, and the public. A network was established among those who had attended the meeting and others who had an interest in health misinformation, fraud and quackery.
Later that year, Jarvis learned about UC Berkeley's Dr. Thomas H. Jukes's interest in combating health misinformation and quackery through his many articles in the scientific literature. Jarvis visited Jukes and learned that he and oncologist-hematologist Wallace I. Sampson, MD, had formulated plans to organize a group with similar objectives to those of Jarvis-Rick's group. The Jukes-Sampson's group had drafted articles of incorporation, but had not filed them. These were given to Jarvis who passed them to volunteer attorney Cyrus (Jack) Lemmon, Jr., who revised and used them to establish the Southern California Council Against Health Fraud in December, 1977. Five individuals -- William Jarvis, Nuts Among The Berries author Ronald M. Deutsch, LLU faculty member and Raymond West, MD, Daniel Oliver, DDS, and Joan Oliver, RD -- signed the Articles of Incorporation as required by California law. SCCAHF listed 22 original members and began operations as part of Jarvis' community dentistry activities. Although antifluoridationism and cancer quackery were primary issues, SCCAHF included all controversial consumer health issues within its scope.
In 1978, the Jukes-Sampson group merged with SCCAHF to form the California Council Against Health Fraud. In 1984, after it was determined that a majority of CCAHF members resided outside of California, the decision was made to change the name and scope of the Council to national. From 1998 through 2000, NCAHF conducted some of its business as the National Council for Reliable Health Information (NCRHI).
Several writers have falsely claimed that NCAHF was started by the American Medical Association (AMA) and is financially supported by the drug industry. These falsehoods have been picked up and promulgated by others. Specious allegations of this nature were made in The Great Medical Monopoly Wars (Lisa, 1986) and later in Racketeering In Medicine (Carter, 1992). Maverick physician Robert Atkins also falsely stated in Dr. Atkins' Health Revolution (1988) that NCAHF is linked to the pharmaceutical industry. NCAHF has evidence that Lisa deliberately fabricated his misinformation. Carter and Atkins could have made a good faith effort to check out the validity of Lisa's lies but did not. Whether their reckless disregard of the truth stemmed from their basic paranoid view of their opposition or was deliberate has not been determined. Lisa continued his disinformation campaign in Assault on Medical Freedom (1994) in which he alleged that NCAHF and drug companies are engaged in a conspiracy to suppress "alternative" medicine.
Such charges are apparently designed to draw attention from the true issues. NCAHF believes that consumers have a right to the information they need to make proper decisions, and that those who supply health products and/or services have a moral obligation to be truthful, competent, and accountable. NCAHF does not take sides in turf battles; it believes in one standard for all. Other than the common bond among those who believe that medical care should be based on science, NCAHF has no organizational ties to either organized medicine or the pharmaceutical industry. Nor has it ever received financial support from them. In fact, NCAHF is openly critical of the failure of organized medicine to take a more proactive consumer protection role and believes that medical discipline needs strengthening. NCAHF is also very critical of drug companies that market supplements, homeopathic products, and herbal products that are worthless, questionable, and/or unsafe. When pharmaceutical companies have marketed these products deceptively, NCAHF has exposed such activities and incurring the wrath of vitamin trade groups.