Consumer Health Digest #11-37

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 3, 2011

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.

Delta Airlines playing misleading vaccination "infomercial." Delta Airlines has begun running a 3-minute video message that subtly discourages people from receiving the flu vaccine by ignoring the seriousness of the flu and referring viewers to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) Web site. Public health agencies estimate that each year the flu kills up to 49,000 people in the U.S. and 500,000 people worldwide, with up to 5 million serious cases. The NVIC video recommends washing hands and covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing. These actions can reduce the spread of infection. However, vaccination is more important, but the video does not encourage its use. For example, while wrongly asserting that attention to vitamin C and D intake is an important preventive strategy, the video merely describes flu shots as "another option." Overall, NVIC discourages the use of vaccination by downplaying benefits and exaggerating risks. The video has aroused a storm of protest:

British ad regulator blasts reiki claims. The British Advertising Standards Authority has ordered two reiki promoters to stop representing on their Web sites that reiki is effective against a long list of diseases and conditions.

Reiki is based on the idea that the body is surrounded or permeated by an energy field that is not measurable by ordinary scientific instrumentation but can be manipulated to improve health. [Barrett S. Reiki is nonsense. Quackwatch, Nov 3, 2011]

Hoodia marketers settle FTC charges. Three people and two companies have settled FTC charges related to their promotion of weight-loss products. [In FTC 'hoodia' weight loss case, settlement requires defendants to turn over assets. FTC news release, Nov 3, 2011] In its 2009 complaint, the FTC alleged that the defendants made false and deceptive claims about hoodia and its effectiveness as a treatment for obesity and falsely claimed that their ingredient was hoodia when it was not. Under the settlement:

The FTC dropped its charge against a fourth individual, Zoltan Klivinyi, who served as an officer of Nutraceuticals International but is no longer residing in the United States. Hoodia is derived from the plant Hoodia gordonii. The agency has completed at least three other cases against hoodia marketers.

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