Detox peddler fined peanuts

Pure Natural Health Pty Ltd, the company behind the popular “Lemon Detox Diet”, has been fined by the NSW Food Authority.

The company has received two penalty notices totalling $1320 for misleading its customers. Primary Industries Minister Stephan Whan announced a fine of $660 for providing advice that was of a medical nature in their advertising and information and a further $660 for making nutritional claims that were not quantified in the nutrition information panel. The company has also been placed on the Food Authorities register of businesses that have allegedly breached NSW food safety laws.

”The fines are not even a slap on a wrist for the company that claims to be selling 12,000 cans of this product a month,’‘ Elise Davidson, from Choice (Australia’s consumer watchdog), told the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. Minister Whan acknowledged that “the dollar amount of the fine for Lemon Detox isn’t astronomical” but that being on the name and shame list is more damaging to the integrity of the company.

If found guilty of deliberately mislabelling a product, the company could still be fined up to $275,000. Company owner Endree Saade has denied receiving any penalties, telling the Herald,

”This is a big, big mistake.”

The diet, retailing at around $99, is marketed as a weight loss and “detox” product. Spruiked by celebrities such as Tania Zaetta and endorsed by Beyonce Knowles and promoted in popular women’s magazines including Marie Claire and Elle, the product is sold in pharmacies and health food stores around the country.

“The body’s own detoxification processes, such as the liver and kidneys, do just fine without any help in most circumstances,”
said Dr Stephen Novella in his blog Neurologica. “When a real toxin cannot be handled by the body then real disease is usually the result, and treatments, when available, are specific. Vague references to toxins and detoxification, however, are pure nonsense.”

Rose Shapiro, in her book Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All, describes how such diets claim to rid the body of toxins which have accumulated due to a modern, chemical-laden lifestyle. Heavily promoted after the New Year, retailers take advantage of consumer guilt for perceived excesses over the holidays. The Lemon Detox Diet, also known as the “Master Cleanse” was invented by naturopath Stanley Burroughs, who also promoted reflexology and coloured light therapy. Burroughs was convicted in California for practicing medicine without a license, and unlawful sale of cancer treatments.

The diet involves a strict regime whereby dieters consume a drink consisting of maple & palm syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and washed down alongside litres of water. This concoction constitutes a replacement for daily meals. Other drinks included in the diet contain a laxative tea and “sea salt water”. The claims backing the diet are filled with buzzwords such as acidity, toxins, purification, energising and rejuvenation—all staples of the alt med industry. The website warns of discomfort while following the diet, stating that “vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, feeling cold sometimes occurs”.

“The concept of ‘detox’ is a marketing myth rather than a physiological entity,” Dr. Catherine Collins, Chief Dietician at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, said in a statement to Sense About Science.

“The idea that an avalanche of vitamins, minerals, and laxatives taken over a 2 to 7 day period can have a long-lasting benefit for the body is also a marketing myth.”

You can watch a story on “Putting Detox Diets to the Test” on channel 9s “What’s Good For You” here.

For more information on detox see What’s the Harm?, Sense about Science and the Skeptic Zone blog, Debunking the Detox Myth