Category Archives: In the shops

What Whole Foods Markets Doesn’t Tell You

(Reprinted with permission from Science-Based Medicine: What Whole Foods Markets Doesn’t Tell You  by Jann Bellamy. Please go there to read the rest of the post and comment on it)

Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whole Foods Market is a relentlessly hip American supermarket chain which prides itself on organic fruits and vegetables, gluten-free just-about-everything, and high-end touches like wine bars and exotic take out items (roasted yucca, anyone?). The health products aisle is stocked with Bach Flower and homeopathic remedies. For example, in-house brand Flu Ease: “an established homeopathic formula that should be taken at the first sign of flu for temporary relief of symptoms including fever chills and body aches.”

Selling Flu Ease and like products certainly exhibits a lack of appreciation for scientific evidence, not to mention basic science. But I recently saw a product in the checkout line that was so filled with over-the-top quackery and so shocking in its disregard for the public’s health that I haven’t been back to Whole Foods since. And I won’t be going back.

The product? A glossy, slickly-produced magazine with the conspiracy-minded title What Doctors Don’t Tell You. The April 2014 issue promises, in banner-headline font size, a “New Light on Cancer.” It features the well-known symbol of fighting breast cancer, a loop of pink ribbon, but with a tear in the middle of the loop. We’ll look into this “new light” in a bit.

WDDTY is a British export. The magazine launched there a couple of years ago as a companion to the website of the same name, which has been around since 1989. Both are the creation of Lynne McTaggart and Bryan Hubbard. She claimed, in 2012, that the magazine has a circulation of 40,000. I am not sure when it made its American debut, but this is the first I’ve seen of it.

McTaggert and Hubbard are no strangers to pseudoscience. I’ll let the UK blog Tessera introduce them.

Who are McTaggart and Hubbard? She has form as an anti-vaccination campaigner. In one of her books, The Intention Experiment, she says that the universe is connected by a vast quantum energy field and can be influenced by thought. He recommends vitamin C as a treatment for cancer and they complain about the Cancer Act which prevents them promoting their ‘cures’. So I think we know what we’re dealing with.

Yes, we certainly do…. Rest the rest (there’s quite a lot, all cracking stuff) HERE. It’s worth it.

What Dr. Who Doesn’t Tell You

wdwdtyTesco are still, it seems, engaged in their virtual-reality game of pretending that the WDDTY furore is about consumer choice, rather than consumer protection.

But today, the mask slipped.

On the plus side, we now know what the trace across the WDDTY masthead means.

Dum di dum, dum di dum, dum di dum, dee di dum, dum di dum, dum di dum, dum di dum, dee di dum, du-du-du-dum, du-du-du-dum, du-du-du-dum dee-di-di-dum, oo-eee-ooooo…

With apologies to Ron GrainerW and Delia DerbyshireW.

So, that Tesco twitter fail in full:

tesco-dr-who

 

To be absolutely clear: we here at WWDDTYDTY would be absolutely delighted if people were as unlikely to follow WDDTY’s terrible advice as they were to try to time-travel in a police box.

Unfortunately that is not the case.

Recently we have seen evidence of anti-vaccination scaremongering, AIDS denialism, promoting riskier behaviours as less risky, scaremongering over essential medical diagnostics, misleading claims about antibiotics, and probably worst of all a revisionist attempt to pretend that new research vindicates health menace Andrew Wakefield when it does no such thing.

We’ve also seen a superbly eloquent description of why this matters.

Yes, Tesco, we know that WDDTY is science fiction not science fact. Your tweet is (accidentally) bang on the money. WDDTY is as much a medical publication as Dr. Who magazine – and the day they make this clear is the day we’ll stop complaining about you stocking such garbage.

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WDDTY and Tesco’s corporate irresponsibility

WDDTY and Tesco’s corporate irresponsibility

Reblogged with permission from Dianthus Medical

I’ve written before about the magazine “What Doctors Don’t Tell You”, but just to refresh your memory, it is a dreadful pile of nonsense, carrying dangerously misleading health advice. It includes such gems as suggesting vitamin C can cure AIDS or that homeopathy can cure cancer. If you want to know more about just how outrageously irresponsible the magazine is, you might want to visit http://wwddtydty.com or look at Josephine Jones’s impressive list of links.

Now, perhaps none of this would matter very much if it were a subscription magazine where alternative medicine cranks could get their monthly fix of drivel and the rest of us didn’t have to worry about it too much. But I think it does matter when respectable high street retailers stock the magazine. That makes it look like a respectable source of health advice, rather than the crazy conspiracy theory nonsense that it is. If someone walking into a respectable retailer saw this magazine in their “health” section, then they might think it is something to be taken seriously. The consequences of that could be tragic. Beyond Positive have written eloquently about the dangers of persons living with HIV being exposed to such dangerous advice.

Sainsburys briefly stocked the magazine, but to their credit, they have since withdrawn it from sale after it was pointed out to them just how dangerous the magazine is. Tesco, however, is another matter. They continue to stock the magazine.

Tesco’s response has been something of an eye opener. They have clearly decided on a position on stocking WDDTY, but do not seem able or willing to explain their position. Their position, as set out in the standard template email that their customer service department has been using to respond to anyone contacting them about WDDTY, reads as follows:

Thank you for your email.

I understand you have concerns over the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I can appreciate your views on the matter.

We are in the position of offering our customers choice rather than appointing ourselves as censors or moral guardians. The publisher of this magazine prints on page 3 a liability statement advising readers to consult a qualified practitioner before undertaking any treatment.

While we cannot comment on the contents of these magazines, your comments have been duly noted and fed back to our Buying Teams.

One thing to note in passing is that their claim not to act as “censors or moral guardians” is obviously not true. Acting as censors and moral guardians is exactly what they did about “lads’ mags” and a rather offensive Halloween costume. I did try asking them why they sometimes act as censors and moral guardians and sometimes don’t on their Facebook page. They initially replied simply to say that they had removed the Halloween costume from sale (which I already knew) and completely failed to answer my question, which does suggest that the people Tesco put in the position of interacting with the public are not exactly completely engaged in their role. When I pointed out that they hadn’t answered my question, they replied again to promise that they’d get back to me, but of course they never did.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 11:43:47

I also raised my concerns specifically about the magazine on Tesco’s Facebook page, but alas all I got was the same template response that others had got.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 11:49:17

Sound familiar?

Well, I didn’t feel that there was much point pursuing this with Tesco’s customer service team as they were clearly only going to keep parroting the same answer. But I did notice that Tesco claim on their website to have a “Corporate Responsibility” team. So I thought I’d email them and point out the disconnect between selling WDDTY and their corporate responsibility principles, one of which is “Helping and encouraging our colleagues and customers to live healthier lives”. This is what I wrote:

Dear CSR Team

I see that you have a clear policy about helping your customers to make healthy choices. That is admirable, but it seems that one of your purchasing decisions is really not living up to it.

I gather that you sell “What doctors don’t tell you” in your magazine sections. This magazine is dangerous. It consists of much health misinformation (for example, advice to avoid life-saving vaccinations against diseases such as measles or whooping-cough), and if any of your customers were unfortunate enough to believe the articles in it, then their health could be put seriously at risk.

There is a good reason why doctors don’t tell you most of the stuff you read in that magazine, in much the same way that car mechanics don’t tell you to care for your car’s bodywork by regularly driving through salt water.

If you are not familiar with the magazine and would like to read more about just how dangerous it is, there is a useful list of resources here:

https://josephinejones.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/wddty-my-master-list/

I urge you to reconsider your decision to sell the magazine, as it seems to be in clear breach of your CSR policy on helping your customers to live healthy lives.

Kind regards

Adam

PS:

As I’m sure you’re all too aware, CSR policies are often regarded with some cynicism as mere window dressing, not backed up by any meaningful action. This is your chance to prove otherwise!

Tesco’s corporate responsibility team did not respond.

After a decent interval had elapsed, I asked them on their Facebook page when I might expect to get a response. No reply. So a little while later, I asked again. This time, they did reply. They said they couldn’t find my email, and could I forward it to their customer service department. I did so, making it very clear that it was not intended for their customer services department, but for their corporate responsibility department. This was the response I received:

Dear Adam

Thank you for your email.

I understand you have concerns over the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I can appreciate your views on the matter.

We are in the position of offering our customers choice rather than appointing ourselves as censors or moral guardians. The publisher of this magazine prints on page 3 a liability statement advising readers to consult a qualified practitioner before undertaking any treatment.

While we cannot comment on the contents of these magazines, your comments have been duly noted and fed back to our Buying Teams.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Kind regards

Rachel Barnes

Tesco Customer Service

Sound familiar?

There followed much frustrating to-and-fro, both by email and on Facebook, while I asked them if I could have a reply from their corporate responsibility department. Mostly, they simply didn’t understand the question. Eventually, however, we seemed to make progress.

On Facebook, I was told that the corporate responsibility team would not reply to me directly, but would simply send the standard response from customer services that everyone else sent, because they like to ensure that their replies are consistent.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 12:16:04

On the same day, I received the following email from someone else in their customer services department:

Dear Adam

Thank you for your reply.

I would like to advise that in order for you to contact our Corporate responsibility team you would have to put it in writing to our Head Office in Cheshunt and the address is as follows.

New Tesco House
Delamare Road
Cheshunt
Herts
EN8 9SL

Once again thank you for your reply.

Kind regards

Stephen Horn

Tesco Customer Service

So much for consistent replies.

Well, I did indeed do as Stephen suggested and I wrote an old-fashioned letter on a real piece of paper and put it in the post. That was getting on for 4 weeks ago, and I haven’t had a reply. I don’t honestly expect to get one.

Now, I dare say that Tesco’s corporate responsibility team have other things to worry about. Trying to make sure that not too many of the people who make their clothes in sweatshops in Bangladesh get killed in unsafe working conditions probably keeps them quite busy. They probably also need to spend a certain amount of time figuring out what kind of farm animals are in their ready meals and just how dishonestly to respond when they’re caught selling the wrong kind.

But still, it’s now about 2 months since I first contacted them. Is it really too much to expect a brief reply? Perhaps Tesco don’t see this as a corporate responsibility issue. Well, that’s their prerogative, but I don’t see why someone in their corporate responsibility department couldn’t at least have taken the trouble to spend 5 minutes writing an email to say so. Can we really take Tesco’s commitments to corporate responsibility seriously if their corporate responsibility department so completely fails to engage with members of the public? I do wonder whether their corporate responsibility department even exists. On Twitter, Tesco assured me that it did, but I have yet to see any evidence of that. Certainly never got the promised reply.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 14:36:06

To my mind, this is absolutely a corporate responsibility issue. By selling WDDTY, Tesco are giving it a stamp of respectability. This is not about “free speech” or whether anyone is trying to “ban” WDDTY, despite some folks’ attempts to paint it that way (those arguments have been dealt with comprehensively by Matthew Lamand Andy Lewis). It’s about whether it’s responsible for retailers such as Tesco to give WDDTY an implicit stamp of approval. Anyone taken in by that false impression of credibility could be harmed, and I don’t think that’s a responsible way for Tesco to act.

 

Secure your copy of WDDTY

We’ve received a copy of the latest circular email from WDDTY. It contains a very interesting claim, and one which we think WDDTY might have a little difficulty backing up:

What Doctors Don't Tell You

Secure your copy of WDDTY

Hi (email subscriber),

Many of you are having problems finding What Doctors Don’t Tell You in the shops.

Especially Waitrose and Sainsbury’s.

This could be for a number of reasons:  we’re not in every store, and some stores display the magazine for a limited period.  Drug company supporters also hide the magazine or even remove copies from the shelves, and it’s hard for the store employees to always police this.

Wait, drug company supporters? They can’t mean skeptics – WDDTY says there are only a few of them, probably just Simon Singh and he moves around a lot. Every single skeptic we can trace who has commented on WDDTY is also a supporter of All Trials, possibly the most effective grass-roots campaign against “Big Pharma” that has ever existed, so that rules them out anyway.

So who is this large, well-organised shadowy cabal of drug industry supporters? Inquiring minds want to know!

One reader told us:

Interesting to note in your latest newsletter that drug company interests might be “hiding” copies of WDDTY on the shelves of Tesco etc.  I believe it totally. I went to buy one on 1st November at a Tesco and couldn’t see it. I looked all over. Not there. Then I bent down to look at the bottom shelf. Not there either. UNTIL… I noted at the very back of the bottom shelf – totally out of sight – were a few copies! I instantly thought what you did – that someone was deliberately hiding them. A shocker!

That’s where the magazine was at my local Tesco on the day it came out. So the shadowy drug-industry supporting cabal has taken over Tesco’s shelf-stackingThat’s serious!

Unless of course Tesco put it there because it’s a low-sales item. Something’s got to occupy the coveted back of the bottom shelf slot, after all, and it’s unlikely to be Loaded, even with its modesty bag that is entirely a matter for the publishers.

So we see the conspiracist mindset in action. The obvious explanation is discounted because it causes too much cognitive dissonanceW. Exactly as we see with medical and scientific evidence, in fact: disconfirming results are a conspiracy, confirming results are visionary and all issues, including poor design, conflicts of interest and so on, are ignored.

It’s a great way of not just being wrong, but staying wrong.

If you want to make sure you see WDDTY every month, we always recommend that you take out a subscription.  You save money if you pay by direct debit and it’s delivered to your home every month.

We recommend this too. If you absolutely insist on giving your money to an anti-vaccinationist homeopathy-believing author of pseudoscentific claptrap, in return for a monthly helping of incorrect, misleading and sometimes downright dangerous nonsense, then don’t make otherwise respectable retailers a partner in crime.

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What Doctors Don’t Tell You & Sainsburys

Reblogged with permission from nucella.wordpress.com

By @MrMWarren

Since the print edition of What Doctors Don’t Tell You appeared in September 2012 it has attracted a lot of attention from the skeptic community, bloggers, social media, and more recently mainstream media including the Guardian and The Times.

The magazine, whose masthead proclaims, ‘Helping you make better health choices’, promises to ‘uncover the hard-to-get facts about health and the causes of illness.’

In practice, this means promoting all manner of quackery and woo. This has been exposed by a large number of bloggers so I won’t spend time covering the issues here. Anyone who is interested should visit Josephine Jones blog where they will find and an extensive and ever-growing list of links to relevant sources.

Many bloggers take the view that retailers should consider whether or not they should continue stocking and selling the magazine. Please note, this is not a campaign for a ban on the magazine. It is a call for retailers to consider whether or not selling WDDTY is in the best interests of the retailer and their customers.

My position is clear. WDDTY contains articles and advertisements which are inaccurate and misleading which put the ill-informed and vulnerable at risk. Retailers who sell the magazine are doing their customers a disservice. I was pleased when I saw this series of tweets on Twitter.

IMG_0202

I do my shopping at Sainsburys. When WDDTY was first published I looked through the magazine section at my local store but couldn’t find a copy. I assumed they didn’t stock it. When I visited the store yesterday (Nov 5th 2013, 9.15 am) I was surprised to see this:

IMG_0198.JPG (2)

When I got home I posted the picture on Twitter. I made no comment, no complaint, no demands. The response was immediate.

IMG_0127

I visited the store later in the day.

IMG_0199.JPG (2)

True to their word, Sainsburys had removed WDDTY from the shelves.

WDDTY and their supporters will complain about censorship, denial of free speech and so on. This is nonsense. Mike Ward, posting on the WDDTY Facebook page (until he’s banned and his posts deleted) sums it up nicely:

No one is suppressing anything. If you wish to read or write nonsense about any subject under the sun, feel free, The (cyber) world is your oyster. Once, however, you start selling products or magazines and advertising them, you have to meet certain ethical and legal standards. Preying on vulnerable people with serious medical conditions like cancer, offering them false hope, and dissuading them from seeking evidence-based medical interventions does, I submit, not meet such standards.

Why don’t doctors tell you that Sainsbury’s sell WDDTY?

Because it’s not true!