Imupro again!

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Molecular Diagnostic Services (Pty) Ltd is a company established by Dr Denis York. They market the ImuPro test, a blood test using IgG testing to predict foods that may be responsible for a number and range of illnesses. They state, among other: “the internationally respected ImuPro Food IgG Intolerance Test can pinpoint food intolerances”.

In fact, ALL allergy societies throughout the world, including the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EACCI), the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), the Allergy Society of South Africa and Australian counterparts, have all issued clear statements stating that there is NO evidence in support of the claims for this test.

In fact, there is evidence showing that the test is BOGUS in predicting adverse reactions to food, and in some instances, may be downright dangerous. Does Dr York care? Considering the repeated ASA rulings against his company for the claims that he cannot substantiate, and continues to make, it would appear not. Critically, the evidence AGAINST the use of this test has been presented to Dr York – but is clearly being ignored.

Here is an ASA ruling following a complaint of breach of a previous ASA ruling.

 

Imupro / HA Steinman / 14955
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris SteinmanComplainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Molecular Diagnostics Services (Pty) LtdRespondent

04 Mar 2011

http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=5480

BACKGROUND
In Imupro / H A Steinman / 14955 (11 February 2010), the Directorate accepted the respondent’s voluntary undertaking to withdraw an advertisement containing the claim “the internationally respected ImuPro Food IgG Intolerance Test can pinpoint food intolerances”.

The undertaking was accepted on condition that the claim was not used again in future.

Subsequent to the undertaking, the respondent submitted documentation to substantiate the claim in dispute. In a ruling dated 13 July 2010, the Directorate held, inter alia, that claim in dispute has not yet been adequately substantiated in terms of Clause 4.1 of Section II, therefore, the original ruling remained binding.

SUBSEQUENT TO THE RULING
In a letter dated 21 January 2011, the complainant submitted that the respondent continued to make unsubstantiated claims for the test, but under a different name. The flyers disseminated by the respondent appeared to be very similar to those previous submitted, and the claims are the same. An example of one such flyer was attached to the complaint.

The complainant added that the respondent’s company name appears to have been changed, but it is still the same parent company, Molecular Diagnostic Services.

The same unsubstantiated claims also appeared on the website: http://wellpro.co.za/tests/ where it states, “It does this by detecting IgG antibodies in your blood, these antibodies are your body’s reaction to the food you are eating and can be the cause of any number of chronic complaints like IBS, headaches, fatigue, post nasal drip, eczema, etc”.

RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the breach allegation the Directorate considered Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide (Enforcement of rulings) as relevant.

RESPONSE
The respondent submitted, inter alia, it has never repeated the words as contained in the initial Directorate ruling and it is not in breach thereof.

It clarified that the new name “WellPro” is simply the result of a strategic marketing decision taken in 2009 to have a focused wellness and lifestyle testing division within the Molecular Diagnostic Services (Pty) Ltd (MDS) umbrella under the WellPro name. There was never anything sinister in this strategic marketing move and no attempt has been made to hide the fact that MDS is still very much involved with this division.

The respondent added that it has many satisfied clients, and therefore questions the complainant’s motives and concerns.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.

The Directorate is currently only tasked with determining whether the respondent is in breach of the previous ASA Directorate ruling. It should also be noted that the re-branding of a company does not have a material effect on this dispute. In any event, the respondent remains the same and is still taking part in the process. The Directorate therefore has no reason to suspect the respondent of employing dubious tactics in an attempt to side-step valid rulings.

The original Directorate ruling of 11 February 2010 accepted the respondent’s voluntary undertaking and held that,

“The undertaking is accepted on condition that the claim “… the internationally respected ImuPro Food IgG Intolerance Test that can pinpoint food intolerances” is not used again in future”.

The flyer submitted by the complainant in support of the breach allegation does not reflect the above claim verbatim, and neither does the website referred to by the complainant.

However, it would be an abdication of its duties if the Directorate were to simply dismiss the allegation by virtue of the fact that the exact same claim is not being used. Clause 3.6 of Section II specifies that “When objections in respect of advertisements that were amended resulting from an ASA ruling are received, both the original and amended version will be taken into consideration”.

The Directorate therefore has a duty to determine whether the likely take-out of any amended advertising is still similar to the likely take-out of the original advertising ruled against, and if so, uphold the breach allegation.

On the respondent’s website it states, inter alia,

“It is a personalized blood test that will tell you how your immune system is reacting to the foods you are eating. It does this by detecting IgG antibodies in your blood, these antibodies are your body’s reaction to the food you are eating and can be the cause of any number of chronic complaints like IBS, headaches, fatigue, post nasal drip, eczema, etc”.

Similarly, the flyer objected to by the complainant states, inter alia, that

“ImuPro is a blood test designed to reveal IgG antibodies against foods which potentially cause chronic complaints”.

It also contains references to some of the diseases listed on the website, and elaborates on the concept of using “… allergic reaction …” information to pinpoint which foods can be regarded as “offending”.

On an objective reading, the Directorate is satisfied that the claims in question are substantially similar to the one originally ruled against. The only difference is a semantic one. The original claim specifically communicated that ImuPro uses IgG intolerances to indicate food intolerances. Similarly, the claims currently used refer to using “IgG antibodies” which indicate a reaction to food, which in turn causes certain discomfort, illnesses or conditions.

The underlying take-out of the current claims therefore appears to convey a similar message as was done by the previous claim. This goes to the core of the original complaint, which was that there is no evidence to show that an IgG test can do this.

Given the above, the Directorate is satisfied that the respondent’s current flyer and website advertising is in breach of the original ruling and therefore in breach of Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide.

The Directorate does not, however, believe sanctions are appropriate at this time, as the respondent does not, at this time, appear to be a habitual offender. In addition, the advertising reflects a change to the respondent’s claims, albeit not a sufficient change. This arguably indicates an attempt to comply.

The respondent is cautioned, however, that the responsibility to ensure compliance with the ASA ruling lies with it. Should further justified breach allegations be received, the Directorate may consider the imposition of additional sanctions as allowed for in Clause 14 of the Procedural Guide. This ruling may also be taken into consideration at such a time.

The breach allegation upheld.

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