Consumer Health Digest #05-16

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 19, 2005

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

Feds unveil new food guidance system. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a new symbol and interactive food guidance system. The “MyPyramid” graphic which replaces the Food Guide Pyramid introduced in 1992, is part of an overall system that emphasizes the need for a more individualized approach to improving diet and lifestyle. The system embodies the recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in January, which advise how proper dietary habits can promote health and reduce the risk of major chronic diseases for people two years of age and older. The new Web site,, enables people to key in their age, gender, and physical activity level to get personalized recommendations for their daily calorie intake and suggestions for making wise choices from each food group. Future enhancements will make it possible for consumers to make specific food choices by group, look at everyday portions of favorite foods, and adjust their choices to meet their daily needs. A child-friendly version for teachers and children 6 to 11 years old is also being developed.  

Class-action suit alleges Sharper Image defrauded investors. Sharper Image Corporation is being sued by shareholders who believe that its management withheld information in order to maintain the price of the company's stock. The complaint, which names chairman/CEO Richard Thalheimer and three other officers as defendants, alleges:

On August 5, when Sharper Image announced that its second quarter earnings would be only 5¢ per-share, the price of its shares plummeted 23%. The lawsuit seeks to recover damages on behalf of all who purchased Sharper Image common stock between February 5 and August 4, 2004. [Lerach Coughlin announces class action lawsuit against Sharper Image Corporation. News release, April 18, 2005] The complaint is posted to Casewatch.

In November, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit that Sharper Image had filed against Consumers Union (CU). The suit concerned articles in the October 2003 and February 2002 issues of Consumer Reports which concluded that the Ionic Breeze Quadra was "ineffective" as an air cleaner and produced "almost no measurable reduction in airborne particles." The dismissal order enabled CU to collect $525,000 to cover its legal fees and costs. The magazine's May 2005 issue reported new findings that the Ionic Breeze Quadra S1737 SNX and four competing devices emitted excessive amounts of ozone that could cause respiratory difficulty when operated close to the user. [New concerns about ionizing cleaners. Consumer Reports 70(5):22–5, 2005]

Stuart Suster facing criminal charges. Stuart Suster, M.D. has been charged with 19 criminal counts of "simulating legal process" in connection with disciplinary proceedings that ultimately led to revocation of his medical license. The criminal complaint (reproduced below) states:

"Simulating legal process" is a Class I felony. The maximum penalty for each count is a $10,000 fine and 3.5 years of imprisonment. The criminal complaint is posted on Casewatch.

FDA keeps churning out warning letters. The FDA has been issuing quackery-related warning letters at a rapid pace. Last year it ordered more than 100 companies to stop making illegal claims for dietary supplements, herbal products, homeopathic products, and/or devices. In January and February of this year it warned more than 20. The most noteworthy include:

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This page was posted on April 19, 2005.