British Advertising Standards Agency
Criticizes Rodale Books Ad

July 7, 2004

Advertiser: Rodale Books, 7-10 Chandos Street, London, WC1E 7HW (direct mail ad)

Complaint:

Objections to a mailing, for herbal remedies, that was headed "Herbs for Health" and claimed "Herbs that Work As Well As Drugs! Scientifically Tested and Doctor Recommended. Age-old herb outperforms oestrogen therapy in clinical trials! Ordinary Kitchen spice works as well as steroidal drugs ... Plus Herbal alternatives for Stomach Upset ... Allergies ... Fatigue ... and more ... ''Believe It or Not, These Herbal Remedies Work As Well As many Prescription Drugs! ... ". The mailing included an insert with a reply coupon that invited readers to order a book entitled "The Herbal Drug Store", that contained remedies for various ailments, for a free 14-day trial and to receive a free gift "Recipes from the Herbal Kitchen". The complainants objected to the claims:

1. "Herbs that Work As Well as Drugs" and
2. "Age old herb that out performs oestrogen therapy in clinical trials".

The Authority challenged:

3. whether the mailing was irresponsible and breached the Code by discouraging readers from seeking qualified medical advice for serious medical conditions.

Codes Section: 2.2, 3.1, 3.3, 6.1, 7.1, 50.1, 50.3 (Ed 11)

Adjudication:

1. Complaints upheld
The promoters said the main body of the promotion was a letter from the author, Steven Foster, who believed that some herbs worked better than drugs because they had the same overall benefit, cost less and had fewer side effects; they sent a copy of the book "The Herbal Drug store", which listed some herbs and their benefits to health to support that. The Authority considered that the claim was capable of objective substantiation. Although it noted the book listed herbs that the author believed worked as well as drugs and referred to the findings of experiments and studies that had been conducted, the Authority considered the information in the book was not sufficient to justify the claim. The Authority concluded that, because the promoters had not sent objective substantiation to support it, the claim was misleading. It told the advertisers to remove the claim and reminded them of the Code''s requirement to hold substantiation for their advertised claims.

2. Complaints upheld
The promoters sent printouts from the book that referred to black cohosh and its benefit as a replacement for oestrogen therapy. The Authority noted the book stated that black cohosh could help women going through menopause and those with menstrual problems and stated "Studies have confirmed that black cohosh root can mimic oestrogen in the body", but also noted the studies were not referenced or sourced. The Authority was concerned that the promoters had not sent substantiation to support the claim "Age-old herb outperforms oestrogen therapy in clinical trials" and told the promoters not to repeat it unless they could prove it.

3. Upheld
The promoters argued that the book and mailing were not irresponsible and pointed out that the mailing actively encouraged readers to seek qualified medical advice. The Authority noted smallprint inside the mailing stated "Note: This preview is intended for reference only and represents the views of the authors based on the research conducted for this book. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment that may have been prescribed by your doctor. You should consult your physician before treating yourself with herbs or mixing them with any medications. If you suspect you have a medical problem, we urge you to contact your doctor." The Authority nevertheless considered that the smallprint could easily be overlooked and that the presentation of the mailing, especially the claims "Scientifically Tested and Doctor Recommended", "Age-old herb outperforms oestrogen therapy in clinical trials", "The herbal way to shrink an enlarged prostate. Works as well as drugs and has fewer side effects, too" and "The powerful natural remedy that helps fight diabetes in three ways. Totally safe", which appeared in the body copy of the mailing, breached the Code by discouraging readers from seeking qualified advice for serious medical conditions. The Authority told the promoters to withdraw the mailing and told them to consult the CAP Copy Advice team before distributing similar mailings in future.

This article was posted on March 15, 2005.

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