Consumer Health Digest #10-13

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 1, 2010

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.

Simon Singh wins appeal in libel suit. British science writer Simon Singh has won an appeal in the libel suit filed against him by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA. The case arose after Singh wrote in a newspaper column:

The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organization is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

In ordinary English, this passage would be interpreted as Singh's opinion that the treatment claims are false and that the BCA promotes them anyway. It would not mean that the BCA believes they are false. However, the trial judge ruled that the word "bogus" must be interpreted as "deliberately dishonest," which would mean that instead of examining the truth or falsity of the claims, the trial would focus on whether or not the BCA believed them. In overturning the ruling, the Court of Appeal concluded that Singh's statement was an expression of opinion that he has a right to defend. The BCA can appeal to a higher court, withdraw the suit, or proceed to a trial that is likely to embarrass the chiropractic profession.

British libel laws are heavily weighted against writers because suits are not easily dismissed and defense costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. A campaign to modify the law has aroused considerable support from the press, legislative leaders, and the general public. Interest in the case also appears to have had an effect on chiropractic Web sites. Last year that hundreds of chiropractic Web sites were taken down following questions by bloggers and urgent instructions from chiropractic organizations to avoid breaking the rules on medical claims for chiropractic services.

British university dumps "integrated medicine" course. The University of Buckingham has terminated its contract with the providers of a course in "integrated medicine" after concluding that it was "too high on quackery to be a credit to the university." The course was advertised as a Diploma in Integrated Medicine taught by the British College of Integrated Medicine, which subsequently changed its name to "Faculty of Integrated Medicine," even though it was not part of the University. The course leader, Rosy Daniel, operates Health Creation, a program whose Web site has described her as "the UK's leading cancer consultant" and claimed that an herbal product called Carctol has cured terminal cancer patients. David Colquhoun, who spearheaded the opposition, has posted a detailed history of what happened. [Colquhoun D. University of Buckingham does the right thing. The Faculty of Integrated Medicine has been fired. DC's Improbable Science Web site, April 1, 2010]

Bizarre Wikipedia collections offered for sale. A company doing business as Alphascript Publishing and Betascript Publishing is marketing collections of Wikipedia articles as prices ranging from $46 to $189. Amazon Books lists more than 18,000 titles from each of them. The books appear to have been assembled using a computer that begins with one article and adds other articles linked to that article. Some books are on topics that are related to each other, whereas others include articles that are completely unrelated to the main ones. One book, for example, includes articles about Quackwatch and the War of 1812. Nearly all the reader reviews are highly negative.

Another raw milk warning issued. The FDA and several state agencies are alerting consumers to an outbreak of campylobacteriosis associated with drinking raw milk that originated from the Forest Grove Dairy in Middlebury, Indiana. At least 12 confirmed cases were reported in Michigan. Raw milk is unpasteurized milk from hoofed mammals, such as cows, sheep, or goats. Since 1987, the FDA has required all milk packaged for human consumption to be pasteurized before being delivered for introduction into interstate commerce. Pasteurization heats milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time and kills harmful bacteria, such as listeriosis, salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and brucellosis. FDA’s pasteurization requirement also applies to other milk products, with the exception of a few aged cheeses. From 1998 to 2008, 85 outbreaks of human infections resulting from raw milk consumption were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These outbreaks included a total of 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and 2 deaths. Proponents often claim that raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk and is inherently antimicrobial, thus making pasteurization unnecessary. These claims, however, are false. [Barrett S. Why raw milk should be avoided. Quackwatch, Dec 22, 2003]

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This page was posted on April 2, 2010.