Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cambridge Nutritional Sciences Ltd - Quacks

The BBC's Watchdog programme gave a good pasting to
Cambridge Nutritional Sciences Ltd last week.

The company produce a home test for food intolerances, the Food Detective.

The programme interviewed two senior doctors at leading London hospitals who both opined that (forgive me for paraphrasing) the company's claims are bullshit.

Has the company swiftly changed its aberrant behaviour? It seems not.

A few days after the programme was broadcast, the company were bravely exhibiting their wares at CamExpo in London.

I found a leaflet (available here and here) on their stand which claims, somewhat unwisely,

"Food Detective tests for reactions to 59 commonly eaten [sic] foods... Food Detective gives you your results in just 40 minutes. Simple, safe, accurate and fast, Food Detective is the world's first self test [sic] for food intolerance..."

"Accurate", eh? That's not the opinion of Dr Rubaiyat Haque, Consultant in Allergy at Guy's hospital in London, whom the BBC quotes as saying:

"...there's a lack of evidence that IgG testing is a reliable indicator of food intolerance..."

I wonder if the advertising regulators will be more sympathetic to Cambridge Nutritional Services than the BBC were?

Somehow, I don't think so. ASA complaint follows!

"I write to complain about a flyer I picked up at the CamExpo exhibition in London on 24th October this year.

The flyer, for Cambridge Nutritional Sciences Ltd, promotes the "Food Detective", a self-diagnosis test kit for food intolerances.

I suspect that the flyer may be in breach of four sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) code (2010). I can provide the original flyer by post, if necessary.

1. The flyer is titled:

"Food Detective: Easy to use food intolerance self test [sic] with immediate results"

2. The flyer describes the advertised product, "Food Detective", thus:

"Food Detective is a self test [sic] for food intolerance that you can use in the comfort of your own home. You don't have to go to the doctor or wait weeks to receive results from a testing laboratory. Using Food Detective couldn't be easier with informative step by step instructions to guide you through the simple process.

"Food Detective tests for reactions to 59 commonly eaten [sic] foods. To conduct the test you take a small blood sample from a finger-prick, dilute it and add it to the Food Detective testing tray (containing small spots of food protein extracts)...Reference to the food layout plan...allows you to identify any foods to which you may have an intolerance..."

3. The flyer boasts:

"Food Detective gives you your results in just 40 minutes. Simple, safe, accurate and fast, Food Detective is the world's first self test [sic] for food intolerance..."

4. (i) The BBC's Watchdog programme interviewed [1] "Catherine Collins" who "is a leading dietician at St George's Hospital in London".

(ii) Collins is quoted as saying "the results [of the Food Detective test] don't all point to food intolerances; they only demonstrate that [the consumer] had exposure to those foods at some time in the week preceding the test".

(iii) The programme also interviewed "Dr Rubaiyat Haque, Consultant in Allergy at Guy's hospital in London", who is quoted as saying "...there's a lack of a evidence that IgG testing is a reliable indicator of food intolerance."

5. Therefore, under Section 3.1 of the CAP Code I challenge whether the following claims are misleading, under Section 12.1 I challenge whether any of them can be substantiated, and under Section 12.5 I challenge whether the advertisers are making claims that might lead to a mistaken self-diagnosis:

(i) The Food Detective can "test for reactions" to any of the "59 commonly eaten [sic] foods" listed in the flyer
(ii) The test is "Simple, safe, accurate and fast"
(iii) The test is "The world's first self test [sic] for food intolerance"

6. (i) The flyer contains the text:

"Sufferers of food intolerance frequently complain of lethargy or 'fogginess' and a general feeling of unwellness...Sufferers regularly report that visits to their doctor have not resolved their problems and in many cases their symptoms are dismissed as 'all in the mind'."

(ii) Under Section 12.1, I challenge whether the claim that sufferers frequently report this response from their doctors can be substantiated.

(iii) As previously mentioned, the flyer also states "You don't have to go to the doctor..."

(iv) Under Section 12.2, I challenge whether the two quoted passages discourage essential treatment.

7. I confirm I have no connections with the advertiser. I confirm I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser.




  1. you sad horrendous cunt.

  2. yeah, I'm with anonymous. you massive heaving cunt.

  3. Nice adjectival and comparitive descriptions; can anyone complete the set with a nice superlative?

  4. Hello, Sorry this is such a late contribution but just saw this whilst googling Cambridge Nutritional Sciences Ltd. Having gazed in disbelief at a small 'Food Detective' booklet that seemed to be a load of utter rubbish to me I decided to see what the internet had to say and I now feel safely assured that my first assessment was correct. If only i could express myself as eloquently as the two above comment makers to do so... This is the first time I have visited your blog but as someone who is a science student at university and who spends their life sending irate messages to homeopaths/Chinese herbal 'medicine' providers/those offering me all manners of beautifying serums I am already very impressed! Thank you! Sophie

    1. Hi Sophie,

      I rarely find that opening a correspondence with the quacks leads to any changes in their behaviour - they really do believe it's all a big pharma conspiracy - but there's never any harm in dashing off a quick complaint to someone.

      For anyone who doesn't know, here's the link!

    2. In all my emails I've had little success with only one group taking down an article outlining how water drinking can cure cancer so i suppose every little helps! Maybe I'll get further using your complaint system...

  5. Hi Sophie,

    Water as a cancer cure? Blimey, I'd really like to know who that was!

  6. Thank you for your article. My Polish friend has paid just for their useless "test". She should have read your story, sigh...

    I have quickly warned my correspondents about this scam.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.