UK ASA Ruling: Elle Fox t/a Bubbling Life

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Posted 18 July 2018

A website for alternative therapy provider Bubbling Life (www.bubbling.life), featured a page headed ‘CEASE Functional Solutions for Medication & Vaccine Consequences’, which included text that stated “… Dr Tinus Smits, the founder of CEASE, having seen over 300 cases of all levels of severity, concluded that CEASE is a ‘very effective way to address ASD and autism with amazing results.’ In his clinical experience, autism is an accumulation of different causes with about 70% due to vaccines, 25% due to medication and other toxic substances and 5% due to certain diseases”.

A complainant challenged whether the claims, among other, made in relation to the causes of autism on the page titled ‘CEASE Functional Solutions for Medication & Vaccine Consequences’ discouraged essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.

UK ASA Ruling: Elle Fox t/a Bubbling Life

https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/elle-fox–a18-443476.html

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.

Ad description

A website for alternative therapy provider Bubbling Life, www.bubbling.life, seen on 25 February 2018. The website featured a page headed ‘CEASE Functional Solutions for Medication & Vaccine Consequences’, which included text that stated “… Dr Tinus Smits, the founder of CEASE, having seen over 300 cases of all levels of severity, concluded that CEASE is a ‘very effective way to address ASD and autism with amazing results.’ In his clinical experience, autism is an accumulation of different causes with about 70% due to vaccines, 25% due to medication and other toxic substances and 5% due to certain diseases”.

Another web page headed ‘GAPS™ Nutrition’ included text that stated “GAPS™ (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) is a natural protocol to address autism, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, CFS, ME, anxiety, depression and schizophrenia in adults and children. GAPS™ focuses on removing food difficult to digest which are damaging to the gut flora and replacing them with quality, nutrient-dense foods giving the intestinal lining a chance to heal and seal … Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, through years of research and clinical experience, has adjusted the GAP™ protocol to meet the individual needs of patients suffering from intestinal and neurological conditions as a result of imbalanced intestinal microbiome.”

Text at the bottom of both pages stated “The material in this website is for education and information purposes only. Nothing contained herein is to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Consult a suitably qualified health professional before making any decision or changes pertaining to your health and/or treatment choices”.

Issue

The complainant challenged whether the claims:

  1. made in relation to the causes of autism on the page titled ‘CEASE Functional Solutions for Medication & Vaccine Consequences’ discouraged essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought;
  1. on the page titled ‘GAPS™ Nutrition’ discouraged essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought; and
  1. that GAPS therapy was effective in treating chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and anxiety were misleading and could be substantiated.

Response

1, 2 & 3. Bubbling Life acknowledged receipt of the complaint, but did not provide a substantive response. They stated that they were certified by the General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies (GRCCT).

Assessment

  1. Upheld

The CAP Code stated that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. Advertisers must not offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.

We noted that the page titled ‘CEASE Functional Solutions for Medication & Vaccine Consequences’ stated that CEASE therapy “addressed health and behavioural issues in children and adults, taking into account all causative factors which may have contributed to the autism spectrum expression”, and “Dr Tinus Smits, the founder of CEASE … concluded that CEASE is ‘a very effective way to address ASD and autism with amazing results’. We considered that autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were conditions for which medical treatment should be sought. We noted that the bottom of the page featured a disclaimer: “… nothing contained herein is to be taken as medical advice or prescription, consult a suitably qualified health professional before making any decisions … pertaining to your health and/or treatment choices”. Notwithstanding that, we considered that the main claims on the page made for CEASE therapy implied that Bubbling Life offered specific advice on and/or treatment for those conditions. The disclaimer at the bottom of the page did not negate Bubbling Life’s responsibility to demonstrate that the specific advice and/or treatment were conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional. We had not seen any evidence to demonstrate that this was the case.

In addition to the claim ascribed to Tinus Smits relating to the causes of autism, the ad also stated “… taking into account all causative factors which may have contributed to the autism spectrum expression, such as … medications including vaccinations, exposure to environmental toxins, effects of illness, potential family history and genetic burden, etc.”. We considered that those claims which attributed the causes of autism and ASD to vaccination and medication further encouraged consumers to seek CEASE therapy to treat those conditions, in place of medical treatments from qualified health professionals. For the above reasons, we considered that the claims made in relation to CEASE therapy made on Bubbling Life’s website discouraged essential treatment for autism and ASD, and therefore concluded that those claims were in breach of the Code.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule   (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

  1. Upheld

We noted that the web page titled ‘GAPS™ Nutrition’ stated that GAPS therapy could be used to ‘address’ autism, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, … depression and schizophrenia in adults and children. We considered those to be conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. We also noted that the page contained the wording “GAPS is particularly effective in cases of compromised intestinal function, allergy presentation or other gastrointestinal damage to due autoimmune issues, medications, surgery or vaccinations”, and “The GAPS protocol can be successful combined with CEASE therapy, particularly in cases of severe iatrogenic or vaccine damage”. Notwithstanding the disclaimer at the bottom of the page, we considered the claims above implied that Bubbling Life offered specific advice on and/or treatment for the conditions referenced above; we had not seen any evidence that those were conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.

In addition, we considered that the claims that GAPS therapy was effective in treating the referenced conditions, the causes of which the ad attributed to medications, surgery, vaccinations, and “severe iatrogenic or vaccine damage”, would encourage consumers to seek GAPS therapy from Bubbling Life for those conditions in place of medical treatments from qualified health professionals.

For the above reasons, we considered that the claims made in relation to GAPS therapy discouraged essential treatment for the conditions referred to on the page and were therefore in breach of the CAP Code.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule   (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

  1. Upheld

In addition to the claims assessed in the issue above, the web page for GAPS also included references to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and anxiety: “GAPS … is a natural protocol to address … CFS, ME, anxiety … in adults and children”. When read in conjunction with the reference to Natasha Campbell-McBride’s “years of research and clinical experience”, we considered that consumers would regard those to be objective claims made in relation to the efficacy of GAPS in treating those conditions. We therefore expected Bubbling Life to provide a body of robust scientific evidence, including clinical trials conducted on people, in order to substantiate the claims. Because Bubbling Life did not provide a substantive response to the complaint, we had not seen any evidence to support those claims, and therefore concluded that they were misleading.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules   (Misleading advertising),   (Substantiation) and   (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Bubbling Life to ensure that their ads did not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, including the conditions referenced respectively on the CEASE and GAPS therapies pages. We also told Bubbling Life to ensure that they did not make efficacy claims in relation to GAPS therapy in treating CFS, ME and anxiety, unless they held adequate evidence to substantiate the claims.

CAP Code (Edition 12) 12.1     12.2     3.1     3.7   

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