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Diet drug dodges ASA again

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Posted 4 July 2011

An article published in The Witness on 30 Jun 2011 and related to the ongoing scam being sold by Jasmine and Christopher Grindlay of SlimBetti / Slender Max / Hoodia Slender Gel

Author: Anna-Maria Lombard

Republished with permission of the author and  Media24.com.

A BRITISH couple who built their South African empire on discredited hoodia diet products have dodged advertising bosses yet again by launching a new “diet gel” that makes the same claims as their other products, sparking a fraud complaint.

Chris and Jasmine Grindlay’s company, Planet Hoodia, was first hauled before the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in 2008 when medicine consumer activist Dr Harris Steinman complained about the therapeutic claims made about its Hoodia Slender Gel.

The ASA subsequently ruled against Planet Hoodia’s advertising and product claims 13 times and even instructed it to drop the word “hoodia”.

ASA communications manager Corné Koch said they have no evidence that Planet Hoodia complied with their rulings.
“February’s Ad Alert still stands — no ASA member may place Planet Hoodia advertisements before the ASA has notified them to proceed,” said Koch.

Steinman has now lodged a new complaint against Planet Hoodia’s latest offering, “Slimbetti”.
“There is still not a shred of evidence that hoodia can be absorbed through the skin and result in appetite suppression or weight loss,” said Steinman.

“Until this is proven with robust evidence this should be regarded as nothing but a scam,” he added.
Steinman has now also laid a complaint of fraud with the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions, which wrote back saying the matter was receiving attention.

Chris Grindlay confirmed this week that there is no science backing their products, but says they are “herbal and of the best quality”.

Grindlay says they have complied with the ASA rulings over the years by “recalling stock … destroying the old packaging and replacing it with brand-new design boxes”.

“We have taken out all of the claims … regarding our Hoodia-based products,” says Grindlay.
“Our latest Hoodia products have no claims on them,” Grindlay added.

But while old Slender Max — which costs about R350 for gel — and new Slimbetti (about R33) boxes show only the name of the product, the company’s old and new websites still sport the same Hoodia gel testimonials and claims.
One new Slimbetti magazine advert is worded carefully to dodge the most flagrant flaunting of ASA rulings, but still claims the product is effective and safe.

Health Department spokesperson Fidel Habebe said the Medicines Control Council will publish its long-awaited regulations for complementary and alternative medicines, including weight-loss products, at the end of June, with guidelines published for comment in July.

In the absence of regulation products like the Grindlays’ have not had to prove that they are safe or effective and have turned complementary medicines into an industry turning over more than R4 billion per year .
Steinman this month asked the ASA to reprimand Dis-chem for selling unsubstantiated products or else withdraw its slogan, “Pharmacists Who Care”.

The ASA has declined, instead approaching the Self-Medication Manufacturing Association of South Africa (Smasa), a self-regulating body of which Dis-chem is a member and that subscribes to the ASA code and rulings. Smasa executive director Allison Vienings says they are still considering their advice to Dis-chem.

Dis-chem’s group category manager of vitamins and supplements, Craig Fairweather, said they asked Planet Hoodia to change the offending packaging and “will abide by any further MCC ruling”.

Another website that introduces Jasmine Grindlay as life coach, describes how the Grindlays first visited SA in 2001 and “fell in love” with the country so much that they immigrated here and “founded two branches of their UK operations” in 2002.

The Grindlays settled in a R4,5 million home in the posh Cape Town seaside suburb of Llandudno and have sold their products online and through major retail pharmacies.

Chris Grindlay says they founded Planet Hoodia after watching a “BBC television programme on how the Khoisan had used hoodia to suppress their appetite for thousands of years”. He claims they were one of the first companies to export hoodia to the U.S. and boasts “thousands of happy customers who’ve lost up to 50kg each with our Hoodia gel”.
Steinman points out that the BBC programme popularised a myth and that the San used hoodia in raw form for other medicinal reasons and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been acting against companies marketing hoodia.

He says anecdotal evidence is no proof of efficacy and calls for controlled trials before being allowed to raise consumers’ hopes.

In 2008 Unilever abandoned its R197 million hoodia study, aimed at bringing it to market, because it could not prove it effective or safe.

But even if it was, “can Grindlay explain why number P57, the active component of hoodia, has been found in his product?” asks Steinman.

Grindlay declined to respond to detailed questions on Slender Gel and Slimbetti.

[email protected]

The Hoodia Page from Witness which also has a great graphic of the timeline of ASA complaints.

[note note_color=”#f8fddd”]CAMCheck posts related to Slimbetti / Chris & Jasmine Grindlay




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3 Responses to Diet drug dodges ASA again

  1. Nigel Usher 26 August, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    I read the last 2 posts with interest.
    Here you are, the guy that gave me a lot of so called information about Dr Steinman without bothering to tell me that you ARE Dr Steinman and you have the nerve to talk about other people misleading people. Unbelievable! I have also looked closely at all the other ‘cases’ that you have brought to everyone’s attention in your crusade to save us all from ourselves and in no other case do you publish photographs or private addresses of people. If that doesn’t spell vendetta then I don’t know what does. What I do know is that you are prone to deceit when it suits you and that your motives are highly questionable and your methods reprehensible

  2. Harris 26 August, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    @Nigel Usher

    I thought you were being facetious asking me about who I am when in fact it is clearly recorded in the "About" page on this site!  Go check! Always been there! There was no deceit. I simply keep my "day job" separate from my consumer activism – but did not hide anything! Many people keep a "serious hobby" or other activity apart from their day job – no deceit is intended.  

    There is only one person in the world with my name, and doing a normal average search on the Internet would have brought up other aspects aspects of what I do. I do not have all aspect of what I do, e.g., supervising Ph.D.s, listed on the web, and in fact, am not even on Facebook. That is my prerogative. One thing though: I do not lie, do not deceive, do not scam, do not sell products with lack of efficacy, do not steal (objects or financially), etc. 

    Regarding the vendetta: there is no vendetta. The other rulings or postings usually result in the company removing their claims or their products from the market. In this case, these individuals deserve to be here. They have been asked more than 13 times by the Advertising Standards Authority to prove that their products are not a scam, and they could not. They have been ordered to stop making false and misleading claims by a legal authority, but instead increase the advertising and exposure. They create new names for their products and use the exact  same testimonials of people for these different products: but the product still has no active hoodia in it.

    Nigel, I am intrigued, you feel that my "motives are highly questionable and [my] methods reprehensible" compared to these individuals? I am content for readers to decide for themselves. Nothing is hidden. Let me make it easy: http://www.google.co.za/search?client=opera&rls=en&q=harris+steinman&sourceid=opera&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&channel=suggest

    And here is the irony, it is so easy to find information on me, but who are you Nigel Usher? What do you do for a living? Do you sell these kinds of products? 😉

  3. Debbie Pitout 26 November, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Good day

    Ads with PGC3 now available in South Africa is surficing in magazines. Called the “Holy Grail” of weight loss. I did not know that Hoodia Gel was one of their products. I used it but with no results. My daughter used Carcinia Cambogia in Australia after seeing the programme on dr. Oz but it did not work for her. Thank you for informing people regarding this new non working product as I was busy searching for a store to buy this and stumbled upon a previous article about Garcinia Cambogia and the ASA and the Grindlay’s. Seeing that they moved to Cape Town SA I can understand why this product is suddenly available in SA

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