As noted here, I e-mailed the British Association for Nutritional Therapy (BANT) to complain about some of Holford’s problematic online health advice. I have not, as yet, even had a reply from BANT – not even an acknowledgement of my e-mail.
This is an organisation which represents itself as
a professional body for nutritional therapy practitioners and those working in the wider application of nutritional science
BANT asserts that it seeks to
promote high standards of education, training, practice and integrity in the nutrition profession
Given these goals, I am rather disappointed by this lack of response – I would argue that BANT should have sought to deal with this promptly.
Official Homeopathy Resource breaks some shocking news: New York Times: Beware of Anti-Homeopathy Journalists and Bloggers- They May Be Sponsored By Drug Companies. Drawing upon the recent (good) article in the New York Times about the conflicts of interest of health journalists, they express their anguish at the conflict of interest that they imagine for Dr Ben Goldacre and for Gimpy. Continue reading
Bad Science‘s Dr Ben Goldacre has collaborated with Radio 4 to produce a 2-part exploration of the potent, intriguing power of placebo. Both Part 1 and Part 2 discussed the history, science and theatre of this fascinating phenomenon and it has been notable that the examples spanned from Perkins Tractors, Mesmer and animal magnetism, to work that was published only this year. Placebo has such an extensive and rich history and encompasses so many issues aside from medicine such as social influence and trust that it isn’t practical to present more than a tasting menu of it in 2 half-hour programes. Nonetheless, at the risk of sounding like Brillat-Savarin, it was strangely unsatisfying that neither of the programmes addressed the issue that some researchers argue that the placebo is both over-rated and ineffective and that there is no role for it in medicine, outside the context of a clinical trial. Continue reading
BANT has a sufficiently flexible code of ethics that nutritional therapists are allowed to earn commission from selling tests and pills. That in itself is not particularly striking. What is unusual is that the therapist is under no obligation to declare this commission to the client (pdf):
In addition to supplying supplements as an integral part of a consultation, the Member may also act as a supplier of laboratory tests, or any other products related to Nutritional Therapy. The member may choose to benefit from trade discounts and commission payments when offered by the supplier on products purchased by him for such use. The member decides whether such payments, in whole or in part, are retained in his Nutritional Therapy business, or passed onto the client. [pg. 9; S 7.3 a); emphasis added.]
A while back, I asked BANT – which promotes itself as “The Professional Body for Nutritional Therapists”, and has made Holford a Fellow – to see a copy of their ethics code. They refused, citing concerns that people might misquote or steal their ethics code. I was therefore delighted to see that BANT’s ethics code is now available on their website [PDF]. However, I was disappointed to note some of the content of the code: BANT allow members to earn profit and commission from selling products to their clients. This is not appropriate behaviour from want-to-be healthcare professionals.
To quote from the BANT ethics code (p. 9):
7.3 Trade discounts and commission payments.
The main income, generated as members of BANT, should come from consultative, advisory, educational and promotional aspects of Nutritional Therapy. (G).
a) In addition to supplying supplements as an integral part of a consultation, the Member may also act as a supplier of laboratory tests, or any other products related to Nutritional Therapy. The member may choose to benefit from trade discounts and commission payments when offered by the supplier on products purchased by him for such use. Continue reading