Shawn Buckley’s Response to the Fifth Estate’s Vitamin and Supplements: Magic Pills Episode Dec 27/15

Magic Pills or Magic Journalism Website 500 x 500_1

THE FIFTH ESTATE SHOW “MAGIC PILLS” HAS BEEN GENERATING SOME CONCERN AND SO I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO SHARE MY THOUGHTS ON THE PROGRAM

For those who did not see the Program, it was largely based on a dated 2013 publication called DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products, published in the open access journal BMC Medicine (see BMC Medicine 2013, 11:222).

The first question that came to mind when watching the program was: why is a 2013 study news now? After I read the study my main question became why would the Fifth Estate rely so heavily upon this publication? The publication was interesting for the questions it raised for me. The authors took a very small sample of 44 single ingredient products from 12 companies. They tested these products using PCR amplification which is a technique used to “amplify” DNA in a sample. This was done to try to identify the plant species in the product. The authors reported 59% of the products (which the Fifth Estate reported as 60%) contained plant DNA of a species different than the plant on the label.  They also reported that a third of the products contained contaminants and fillers not on the label. The message from the study and the Fifth Estate’s dramatization of the study findings to me was:

  • 60% of natural health products are adulterated with ingredients not on the label, and
  • 1/3 of natural health product s have contaminants and fillers not on the label.

This message is truly shocking. It was meant to be shocking. However, what truly shocked me was how misleading this message seemed to be.

Read the full response here: http://nhppa.org/?page_id=10790

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