Posted 18 January 2013
Fountainhead (owner: Florence Niemann) continues to deceive consumers selling a range of products with dubious health claims, i.e., the science backing the product is either paper thin or complete rubbish. (More to be posted later)
One of these products, their Detox Patches, has been repeatedly ruled against by the ASA in this ruling but the company continues to make false unsubstantiated claims for this product. Note: similar products have been considered to be nothing but scams by the USA Federal Trade Commission. What does this say about Florence Niemann?
|Fountainhead Chi Detox Patches / HA Steinman / 19805|
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
The Fountainhead (Pty) Ltd Respondent
15 Jan 2013
Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against the respondent’s advertisement appearing on its website www.thefountainhead.co.za. The particular product in question is the “Heat Detox Patch”. It should be noted that, while there is an image of both the Heat Detox Patches and Chi Detox Patches, the claims in question all appear to relate to the Heat Detox Patches, which are, inter alia, promoted using the following claims:
“The Fountainhead Heat Detox Patches are designed to gradually heat for a long time by using internationally patented microcapsules of warming pigment. This product greatly improves blood circulation due to generation of Far Infrared Ray emitting anions. After using this product for an extended period of time, physical constitution of the human body may be changed”;
“Heat opens up the blood vessels which allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach the tissues and toxins to be released allowing greater healing to take place”;
“Fountainhead Heat Detox patches are recommended for:
people who experience coldness of the feet or hands even in ordinary weather back pain, general body pain pain in the abdomen (i.e. menstrual, cystitis, colic) stiff neck and shoulder pain pain of the ankles and joints pain in hands, wrists and feet sports injuries, muscular aches and pains people who don’t mind heat on feet and want to detox quicker through feet”;
“Tourmaline is best known as one of the only minerals to emit far infrared heat. It creates a resonance in the body that vibrates at the same frequency as water. Tourmaline exerts a cleansing energy on our nervous system. This has a stabilizing and cleansing effect”;
“Far infrared rays naturally generate heat by causing the bodys molecules to rapidly vibrate against each other”;
“When Far infrared rays penetrate the skin, they come into contact with protein, collagen and fats, By stimulating micro-vibrations far infra-red cause a thermal reaction which elevates tissue temperatures”;
“… the far infrared produced by Heat Detox patches may be useful in the treatment of sub-acute or chronic inflammations, and for trauma, scar adhesions and nerve pain”;
“Beta-glucan and Polysacchides contained in the Agaricus mushroom are known as one of the most powerful enhancing agents for the immune system. AAO certification proves the quality of our special Agricus mushroom. These organic mushrooms are naturally grown under powerful sunlight in the fertile red clay of Brazil without any artificial agents. Beta Glucans is known as a potent factor in natural cancer control. It is a steroid that has been used to assist in the regulation of cancer cells and is exceptional source of vitamins, minerals and amino acids”.
In essence, the complainant argued that this advertisement is highly misleading and that the claims above cannot be substantiated in a manner that applies to this product. He added that there is no evidence to show that the ingredients contained in this product can be absorbed through the skin, which negates any implied efficacy.
As a result of this, the unsubstantiated and misleading claims render the name of the product untrue, as there is no evidence to show that these patches can detox the body. The complainant added that the US Federal Trade Commission has previously ruled against similar products.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE In light of the complaint the following clauses of the Code were considered relevant:
• Section II, Clause 4.1 (Substantiation)
• Section II, Clause 4.2.1 (Misleading claims)
The respondent effectively denied making unsubstantiated claims, and explained how its product works and how the efficacy is delivered to users. It also attached and made reference to various test reports, purportedly in relation to tests done on its product. In addition, an untitled document dealing with the “Benefits of Tourmaline for Health” was attached, along with two signed letters by, what appears to be medical practitioners and a certificate of analysis for “Forest Essence Powder”.
It also explained that the benefits of heat treatment are well known and commonly used by naturopaths, homeopaths and allied health professionals across the world. Similarly, consumers are becoming fairly au fait with concepts regarding their health and the benefit of heat and increased blood circulation. It would, however, be happy to add the following disclaimer above its recommended use section:
“By [sic] placing the Fountainhead Heat Patches over the area of pain or on the sole of the feet will increase the body’s blood circulation and in turn your body temperature which physiologically may improve pain relief and healing in the below instances”.
Similarly, it proposed changing the information about Tourmaline in a specific manner, and added that it has much anecdotal evidence of people using this product to treat their conditions. It also admitted that “… it would require a lot of research to check each ingredient’s efficacy in absorption through the skin …”, and therefore it undertook to add a disclaimer before the ingredient listing that will state as follows:
“Please note that the efficacy of these ingredients has not been tested specifically or use in our detox patches the description of ingredients is for information purposes only of what is in our patches”.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code stipulates that the ASA requires verification from an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. It is also trite that such verification needs to unequivocally state that the claims are true for the product as a whole when used as recommended. Anecdotal evidence is not regarded as substantiation for the purpose of the Code.
At the outset, the Directorate notes with concern that it has previously ruled against efficacy claims made for this product:
In Fountainhead Detox Patches / HA Steinman / 14684 (14 December 2009), the Directorate ruled against the claims “… Heat Detox Patches increase blood circulation which increases oxygen and nutrients to your cells and removes wastes. Emits anti-oxidants. Wastes are drawn into the patch. The only patches registered for an FDA drug monograph.”
In this ruling, the Directorate also made the point that “It is trite that the ASA will only accept product-specific substantiation for general efficacy claims. In addition, the Directorate is not a scientific expert, and is therefore unable to interpret scientific data and to draw scientific conclusions from it. What the Directorate requires is confirmation from an independent and credible expert in the relevant field that the information supports the exact claims made in the advertising”. In the absence of any verification for the respondent’s Heat Detox Patches, the complaint was upheld.
Here too, the respondent opted not to supply product-specific evidence (in fact, it conceded that it has no evidence that the ingredients used are even absorbed through the skin), and again it only submitted raw scientific data, which the Directorate is not in a position to interpret.
This is equally true for the document dealing with the “Benefits of Tourmaline for Health”, in that there is nothing before the Directorate to prove that this is a credible or relevant document, that it relates to the respondent’s product, or that it supports any of the claims at issue.
In addition, the signed letters from a “Dr Albert Rego Ph.D.” and “Mr Youn Sankoo Oriental Medicine Ph.D.” go no further than confirming that they agree with the statement that the “Forest sap sheet” (which the respondent alleges is the Heat Detox Patch) “… is DESIGNED to provide relief …” (our emphasis). This does not equate to unequivocal verification of efficacy. Finally, there is nothing before the Directorate to show that either of these two people should be regarded as independent and credible experts in this particular field.
The Directorate has taken cognisance of the respondent’s proposals for minor insertions and disclaimers, and does not believe that these will address the concerns, as they will not likely change the overall impression that the respondent’s Heat Detox Patches will, as a matter of fact, deliver on these efficacy claims. at best, they might correct a misleading impression initially created, which is still contrary to the principles and rules of the Code.
For all the above reasons, the Directorate rejects not only the proposed amendments, but the “proof” submitted by the respondent as well.
The claims at issue are therefore found to be in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code. As a result, the claims are likely to mislead people in a manner that contravenes Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code.
The Directorate therefore agrees with the respondent that the name “HEAT DETOX PATCHES” (implying detoxification ability) is therefore currently unsubstantiated and misleading in a manner that contravenes Clauses 4.1 and 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code.
The respondent is therefore instructed to:
Withdraw these, and any similar claims from its advertising, as well as the name “HEAT DETOX PATCHES”;
Ensure that the process of withdrawal is actioned with immediate effect upon receipt of this ruling;
Ensure that the relevant claims and product name are completely withdrawn within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide;
Refrain from using these claims or the name “HEAT DETOX PATCHES” again in future unless new substantiation has been submitted to the ASA, and a new ruling has been issued accepting the claims as substantiated (specific attention is drawn to the provisions of Clause 4.1.7 of Section II of the Code in this regard).
The respondent’s attention is also drawn to the provisions of Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide.
The complaint is upheld.
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