Consumer Health Digest #13-42

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 7, 2013

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.

FTC urged to curb MLM companies. An international coalition of consumer activists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and professionals headed by attorney Douglas M. Brooks has filed a petition that asks the FTC to investigate the multilevel marketing (MLM) industry and protect consumers from fraudulent and deceptive practices. MLM firms purport to offer business opportunities in which "distributors" can make money by selling products person-to-person and by recruiting more participants who recruit more participants in an ever-expanding chain. The petition states that the industry has proven incapable of regulating itself, is rife with fraudulent and deceptive earnings claims, and has caused—and will continue to cause—untold financial harm and misery to those who join. In 2006, the agency considered requiring MLM recruiters to honestly disclose the income potential of their distributorships. However, the proposal was abandoned in response to a vigorous industry-led campaign. People who wish to read and comment on the petition can visit the International Coalition of Consumer Activists Web site.

Anti-medical religious sects blasted. Cameron Stauth has produced a vivid, book-length report on the dangers of religious sects that shun medical care. Stauth believes that thousands of children suffer needlessly and perhaps as many as 100 die each year. But the extent of the problem is difficult to quantify because anti-medical cultists commonly home-school their children and try to conceal the consequences of medical neglect. In the Name of God: The True Story of the Fight to Save Children from Faith-Healing Homicide describes how the life of Rita Swan changed dramatically after her 16-month-old son died of untreated meningitis while under the care of Christian Science practitioners. After collecting widespread evidence of harm to children, she launched a nationwide drive to repeal state laws that use religion to shield abusive parents from prosecution. The book is extraordinarily well written. Quackwatch has additional information about faith healing.

Cigarette history classic posted. The full text of Dr. Elizabeth Whelan's 1984 exposé, A Smoking Gun: How the Tobacco Industry Gets Away with Murder, has been posted to Quackwatch. The book spotlights how the tobacco industry achieved economic success and actions needed to control it.

Trudeau released again. Kevin Trudeau, who has failed to disclose millions of dollars in assets that the FTC believes are available to pay toward a judgment obtained by agency, was released after a week in order to prepare for an upcoming trial for criminal contempt charges related to allegedly fraudulent infomercials. After he swore under oath that he had divulged all his assets, the judge warned him that he could face perjury charges if any other assets are discovered or are found to be under his control. [Meisner J. TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau released from jail - - again. Chicago Tribune, Oct 28, 2013]

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This page was posted on November 7, 2013.