Consumer Health Digest #09-17

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 23, 2009

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.

FTC attacks Kellogg cereal ads. Kellogg Company, the world’s leading producer of cereal, has agreed to settle FTC charges that advertising claims touting a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats as “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%” were false and violated federal law. According to the FTC complaint, Kellogg claimed in a national advertising campaign that a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal had been shown to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20%. However, the clinical study to which the ads referred found that only about half the cereal-eaters showed any improvement in attentiveness, and only about one in nine improved by 20% or or more. The proposed settlement bars deceptive or misleading cognitive health claims for Kellogg’s breakfast foods and snack foods and bars the company from misrepresenting any tests or studies. The settlement contains no admission of wrongdoing or financial penalty.[Kellogg settles FTC charges that ads for Frosted Mini-Wheats were false. FTC news release, April 20, 2009] Noting that Kellogg's 2007 sales exceeded $11 billion, Dr. Stephen Barrett submitted the following public comment to the FTC:

I believe that Kellogg should be required to pay a fine because its advertising was unconscionable. The fact that the ad misrepresented the numbers in the study was only part of the problem. The study itself was deliberately designed to be misinterpreted because it compared children who were hungry (no breakfast) to children who were fed. A real study to determine the value of Mini-Wheats would compare children who had various types of breakfast. Your failure to press for a fine signals other companies to do the same. If you really want to deter wrongdoing, you should also insist that Kellogg issue a corrective ad stating that the study itself was poorly designed.

CSPI issues açai scam warning. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is warning consumers not to enroll online in supposedly free trials of diet products made with the Brazilian açai berry. There's no evidence to suggest that açai pills will help shed pounds, flatten stomachs, cleanse colons, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions. And thousands of consumers have had trouble stopping recurrent charges on their credit cards when they cancel their free trials. [CSPI warns consumers about Web-based açai scams. CSPI news release, April 23, 2009]

Bogus "board certifications" under fire. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has announced an investigation and issued an urgent warning about the sale of bogus medical board certifications. Blumenthal's concern was triggered by a complaint from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). Blumenthal's office has reported that Keith Alan Lasko—a/k/a/ K. Lasko, Keith Ferrari, K. Ferrari, and KA James Windsor —has sold bogus certifications to doctors who submit only basic information and a fee as high as $500. The scheme particularly targets foreign-born or foreign-taught doctors who may be unaware of the proper certification process. The bogus board names include American Board of Geriatric Medicine, American Board of Geriatrics, United States Medical Specialists Federation, American Board of Diabetes, American Academy of Cardiology, American College of Christian Physicians, and American Academy of Oncology. [Connecticut Attorney General warns of bogus medical board certification scam targeting immigrant doctors. Press release, Connecticut Attorney General's Office, April 9, 2009]

Science-based medicine conference scheduled. The experts who operate the Science-Based Medicine blog have scheduled an all-day conference on Thursday, July 9th in Las Vegas, Nevada, in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation's seventh annual "Amazing Meeting." The presentations, which will be suitable for both lay and professional audiences, will cover many aspects of quackery and the need for more critical thinking in the healthcare system. Registration information is online.

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This page was posted on April 23, 2009.