The advertisement featured a male voiceover which stated:
“Feeling bloated? Suffering with sickly stomach or Irritable Bowel, skin or overweight issues? In a lot of cases, food intolerance is associated with such problems because when certain foods are not digesting properly, they become toxic, causing bloating and inflammation, why treat symptoms? Treat the cause, see fitzwilliamfoodtest.com, that’s fitzwilliamfoodtest.”
The first complainant challenged the claims in the advertising as he considered that they were based on invalid science. He referred in his complaint to the following link, http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/igg-food-intolerance-tests-what-does-thescience-say//
The second complainant said that the advertisement suggested that a whole range of medical problems were caused by food intolerance. He questioned the scientific basis of the advertised claims.
The advertisers disagreed with the complainant. They accepted that there were conflicting views on Food Intolerance but considered such conflict to be normal in the world of science. It was their view that those who objected most vociferously had a vested interest in blocking alternative views to treating these conditions.
The advertisers said that the reality was that there was a lot of good, independent, scientific publications available on the subject. These independent publications clearly supported the concept of food intolerance and they forwarded a document containing summaries of the conclusions of a number of studies.
Thy also referred to a number of case histories and testimonials available on their website which they said represented a fraction of the number of case histories they had on file. They considered that any scientist would say that these were practical trials on significant numbers of human subjects and of sufficient rigour.
They also considered that it was important to note that they do not make a medical diagnosis. They only seek, they said, to inform people who have already received a medical diagnosis that certain symptoms such as sickly stomach, irritable bowel, etc., in a lot of cases were associated with food intolerance.
They said that without their advertising, people would not be aware of the issue of food intolerance and that as a result of their advertising many more would benefit.
In addition, the advertisers said that Mr Martin Healy (Clinic Founder and Director) had worked in this area of food intolerance for over thirty years. He was the representative for Cambridge Nutritional Sciences Laboratory (UK). They also referred to the fact that Fitzwilliam Foodtest Clinic carry out food intolerance tests for all the major pharmacy groups throughout Ireland – including Boots, Sam McCauley Pharmacy Group etc.
Additionally they said that:
1. The test itself is CE marked. Medical devices / tests with the CE marking means that the device / test has an International stamp of legitimacy
2. Over 100 laboratories internationally use this same food intolerance test technology to run these same tests. These are large, prestigious laboratories in all the major cities throughout the world
3. All of these laboratories are accredited, registered laboratories
The advertisers considered that the reason major chemists and leading laboratories throughout the world carry out food intolerance tests is because they have come to recognise that food intolerance “is associated” with a wide range of medical problems.
The advertisers disagreed with the complainant. They said that the complainant was incorrect in saying that their advertising suggested that “a whole range of medical problems “were caused by food intolerance”. The advertisers said what they had stated in their advertising was that “in a lot of cases, food intolerance is associated with such problems”, they considered this to be a totally different meaning to that gleaned by the complainant. They referenced the fact that:
1. The association between gluten and coeliac disease is well established
2. The association between sugar and diabetes is well establish.
The advertisers also forwarded a study entitled “Food IgG(1) Support Publications” from Cambridge National Sciences (CNS) Limited along with an article from a Sunday newspaper.
The advertisers said that the scientific references forwarded by them clearly indicated that when a person removed foods they were intolerant to (that is those that were not being digested properly), in a lot of cases they felt better. That was the message they were delivering through their advertising.
The Secretariat asked a medical expert in the scientific field for his opinion on the claims in the advertising. He said that while there was some evidence from the literature provided by the advertisers to demonstrate that there was a link between IgG testing and subsequent diet changes giving rise to an improvement in an individual’s symptoms of feeling bloated, there was no evidence provided to demonstrate that when food was not digested properly it became toxic giving rise to bloating and inflammation. Likewise, he said there was no evidence to support the claim that there was a link between food intolerance and weight gain.
In conclusion, the expert said that it was his opinion that the advertisers had not fully provided evidence to substantiate the claims made in their advertising. While they had mentioned that the test was used by many pharmacies, this in itself was not adequate substantiation for the claims made. He also said that while there was evidence across a number of small but statistically significant trials that diet adjusted to IgG levels to some food compounds can lead to symptom improvement, the causative link between the elevated IgG levels and the symptoms has not yet been clearly ascertained in many cases.
(1) Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is the main type of antibody found in blood and extracellular fluid allowing it to control infection of body tissues.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint, the advertisers’ response and the findings of the independent expert. The Committee also considered the further comments and information provided by the advertiser. The Committee noted the literature provided by the advertisers and the newspaper articles. They reminded the advertisers, however, that newspaper articles were not relevant substantiation within the terms of the Code and in addition, testimonials did not constitute practical trials. The Committee accepted that while in some cases the changes made to a person’s diet following IgG testing may relieve the symptoms of bloating, there was no evidence to suggest that food which was not digested properly became toxic and caused inflammation and bloating. They also noted that the advertisers had not provided any evidence to substantiate their claim that there was a link between food intolerance and weight gain. In the circumstances the Committee upheld both complaints under Sections 2.9, 2.12 and 8.1 of the Code.
Action Required The advertising should not appear in its current format again.