Consumer Health Digest #09-37

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 10, 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.

Suit filed against FreeLife and "Dr." Earl Mindell. Six former distributors have filed a class-action suit accusing FreeLife International, two of its officers, and marketing spokesperson Earl Mindell of misrepresenting the value and health benefits of Himalayan Goji Juice, GoChi, and TAIslim. The suit seeks damages on behalf of purchasers of these products during the previous four years. FreeLife International is a multilevel company now headquartered in Arizona. For several years, FreeLife has been falsely claiming that goji products are effective against cancer and many other diseases and that TAIslim causes people to absorb fewer calories from the foods they eat. Until recently, the company's promotional program was centered around Mindell, whom FreeLife has represented as "an internationally recognized expert on nutrition, drugs, vitamins, and herbal remedies." However, his "Ph.D. degree" came from a nonaccredited school, and his claim to broad expertise has no basis in reality. [Barrett S. Class-action suit filed against FreeLife and Earl Mindell. MLM Watch, Sept 9, 2009] In 2007, CBC's "Marketplace" aired a program that debunked Mindell's goji claims and his credentials. [Getting juiced. Canadian Broadcasting Company, Jan 27, 2007] When closely questioned about his claims and credentials, Mindell lost his temper and terminated the interview. In September 2007, one of the class-action plaintiffs published the Web site to expose many of FreeLife's misrepresentations. Not long afterward, FreeLife modified some of its claims and announced that the company was no longer associated with Mindell. However, many distributors continue to rely on his false claims to promote FreeLife products.

FTC nails another "Airborne" copycat marketer. CVS Pharmacy Inc. has agreed to settle FTC charges that it marketed "AirShield" dietary supplements with false and deceptive claims that they would reduce the risk of colds and protect against catching colds in crowded places. [CVS to pay nearly $2.8 million in consumer refunds to settle FTC charges of unsubstantiated advertising of AirShield 'immune boosting' supplement. FTC news release, Sept 8, 2009] CVS promoted the products by touting their similarity to widely advertised “Airborne,” whose marketers settled FTC charges last year. The consent order requires CVS to pay $2.78 million for refunds and to refrain from making unsubstantiated claims that any CVS-brand product will protect against cold viruses, fight germs, or boost the immune system. This case is also similar to two others that FTC settled within the past year with Improvita Health Products, Inc. and Rite Aid Corporation.

Hulda Clark dies. Hulda Regehr Clark, author of The Cure for All Cancers, The Cure for All Diseases, and a few similar books, died on September 3, 2009 at the age of 80. Supporters state that she died as a result of complications from a spinal cord injury, but further details are not available. Clark wrote that all cancers and many other diseases are caused by "parasites, toxins, and pollutants" and can be cured by killing the parasites and ridding the body of environmental chemicals. For many years, she provided services through Century Nutrition, a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. Admirers portray her as a great "research scientist" even though she published no scientific reports. Critics regard Clark as a quack and charge that she exploited desperate patients. Quackwatch has detailed information about her activities.

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This page was posted on September 10, 2009.