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Product: Health & Beauty
Advertiser: The HealWell Clinic
Medium: Leaflet, Press
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 11.1, 11.5
A leaflet for the HealWell Clinic advertising both Food Intolerance Testing and Homeopathy Services stated:
“Food Intolerance Testing
Become aware of any foods, additives or environmental substances you may be sensitive to.
Painless and non-invasive.
Vega test machine.
Includes lifestyle and nutritional advice.
Takes approx. 45 minutes.
Costs €50 adult, (children over 4).
For appointment or further information: Contact XXXXX, Homeopath.”
Page 2 of the leaflet:
“Homeopathy is effective in treating…
General Health & Wellbeing Eczema, Psoriasis, Acne
Addiction Hormonal Imbalance
Behavioural Problems Migraine
Childbirth, Post-Natal Care Morning Sickness
Childhood Illnesses Panic Attacks
Depression Respiratory Ailments
Digestive Disorders Sinusitis
If you have a specific condition and would like to know if Homeopathy can help you, I would be happy to discuss this before you decide whether to undergo treatment.
XXXXXX, (BA. Lic. I.S. Hom.) Homeopath.”
A press advertisement stated:
“FOOD INTOLERANCE TEST
Do certain foods upset you? Do you suffer from: bloating, indigestion, tiredness, cramps, headaches, eczema or other symptoms?
If so consider a comprehensive Food Intolerance Test including a lifestyle and nutritional programme. Cost €50 – Weekdays & Saturday.
Contact: XXXXXX , Homeopath.
The HealWell Clinic.”
1. The complainant objected to the reference to a Vega machine in the leaflet advertisement as she did not believe that there was any evidence to show that it could diagnose food intolerances. She said that many people who have the test could have a real health problem which could be incorrectly attributed to a food intolerance while those who are well could be advised to cut out foods from their diet on foot of this test, thereby putting their health at risk.
2. The complainant also objected to both advertisements which referred to the benefits of homeopathy as she did not consider that there was any evidence to support the claims made.
The advertiser stated that after having read the Code rules referred to by the Executive, she could see how her homeopathy leaflet did not comply with the requirements of the Code and would, therefore, take it down.
In response to the claim that there was no evidence to support homeopathy, she disagreed with this as she said that there was much research being done all around the world on the effectiveness of homeopathy, including clinical trials, observational studies, systematic reviews etc. She said that all were referenced on the Irish Society of Homeopathy’s website or from The Homeopathy Research Institute or Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. She also referred to her own personal experience of how homeopathy has helped her and her 17 years of clinical practice where homeopathy has been a huge support in people’s lives.
In regards to the Food Intolerance Testing advertising she said that, as a health professional, she appreciated the complainant’s concern and that they mirrored hers. She said that she does not diagnose any medical condition and she regularly refers clients to their GP and would continue to do so as it was part of her training and responsibility of care. She said that her Food Test Results Sheet, given to clients if they have a food sensitivity, states “before commencing any dietary changes it is advisable to consult your GP.”. She said that over the past 20 years, many clients had been helped by finding out through the Vega Test if they have, at that time, a food sensitivity or not. She said that if one arises, the food is reduced/avoided for 12 weeks and then reintroduced slowly again. She said that in this time frame she did not believe that it was putting client’s health at risk. She said that she has been using the Vega Test machine for some time and it has proved to be accurate. In her clinical experience and from constant positive feedback from clients, it was valid and should be acknowledged and recognised. She considered that it was a tool/guide to help people determine if they have a food sensitivity or not and that it was non-invasive, painless, however, it was not suitable for anyone who was epileptic, diabetic, pregnant or on a lot of medication.
The advertiser provided links to webpages containing studies on the efficacy of homeopathic remedies on certain conditions on the Homeopathy Research Institute’s website and also to an article titled “Homeopathy: The scientific evidence”. While the links provided related to some of the conditions referenced in the advertisement, the advertiser did not specify which pieces of research she was relying on for the claims made in the advertisement.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the clinic’s leaflet was withdrawn on the grounds that it was in breach of the Code. However, it had not been clarified wither it was withdrawn on the basis of the advertising for the homeopathy service or the advertising for the food intolerance testing.
The Committee noted the claims about health products and treatments should be backed by substantiation. Where relevant, this should include the results of robust and reputable trials on human subjects, of sufficient rigour, design and execution as to warrant general acceptance of the results. The Committee noted that the research the advertisers provided links to related to the efficacy of the homeopathic remedies on some conditions advertised, rather than all conditions referred to in the advertising. They did not however, consider that the studies referenced had demonstrated the effectiveness of homeopathy and the advertised claims made were therefore not sufficiently substantiated.
Finally, the Committee noted that the advertiser had not provided any substantiation on the use of a Vega Machine for food intolerance testing.
In the circumstances the Committee considered that the leaflet and press advertisement were in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10 and 11.1 of the Code.
The advertising must not reappear in its current form.