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SOLAL TECHNOLOGIES / KM CHARLESTON / 15601

Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Mr Kevin M Charleston Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Solal Technologies (Pty) Ltd Respondent

26 Aug 2010

Mr Charleston lodged a consumer complaint against an advertisement for Solal Technologies for its Vitamin D supplement that appeared in The Star newspaper during April 2010.

The advertisement is headed “Vitamin D is as effective as a vaccine.”

It further lists the facts of Vitamin D as, inter alia,:

• “Vitamin D is extremely safe. There are virtually no negative side effects from people taking vitamin D supplements, even at seemingly high doses, such as 2000 IU per day (five times the current South African RDA).”

COMPLAINT

In essence, the complainant submitted that the claims are false and potentially dangerous to at-risk individuals who should use a vaccine. Furthermore, Vitamin D in high doses is poisonous.


RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

In light of the complaint the following clauses of the Code were taken into account:

  • Section II, Clause 4.1 - Substantiation

  • Section II, Clause 4.2.1 - Misleading claims


RESPONSE

Stefan Vos Marketing Regulation Advisers, on behalf of the respondent, provided the Directorate with the curriculum vitae of Doctor Donald Miller and argued that Doctor Miller is independent from the respondent and a credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. Doctor Miller studies and writes articles on the importance of natural and nutritional medicine for maintaining optimum health.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.

Clause 4.1 of Section II requires the advertiser to engage the services of a person/entity which is “independent, credible and an expert in the particular field to which the claims relate, to confirm the accuracy of the claims…”

Because the ASA is not a medical expert, once it is satisfied that the person appointed by the advertiser is credible, independent and an expert in the field relating to the claims, it relies on the opinion of that expert. However, in such instances the expert must unequivocally confirm the advertising claims used.

The primary question before the ASA therefore centres on Dr Miller’s credibility, expertise and independence.

The advertisement states, inter alia, “Vitamin D is as effective as a vaccine” and further “Vitamin D is extremely safe. There are virtually no negative side effects from people taking vitamin D supplements, even at seemingly high doses, such as 2000 IU per day (five times the current South African RDA).”

The respondent did not provide the Directorate with copies of the studies reviewed by Dr Miller and submitted, inter alia, an e-mail from Dr Miller in support of its claims.

The e-mail states “Based on the evidence supplied by SOLAL Technologies and my independent review of the literature on Vitamin D, I can say that the following two statements are truthful: 1) ‘Vitamin D is as effective as a vaccine.’ 2) ‘ Vitamin D is extremely safe. There are virtually no negative side-effects from people taking Vitamin D supplements, even at seemingly high doses, such as 2000IU per day.”

The Directorate perused Dr Miller’s website, namely http://www.donaldmiller.com/ and noted the following:

  1. ) Doctor Miller appears to support the notion that HIV does not cause Aids, a notion that has caused severe controversy in South Africa, and is generally condemned;

  2. ) Dr Miller publically propagates the dangers of vaccines, which arguably indicates a bias on his part when considering any material on this topic. He writes, inter alia, “The day will come when the CDC withdraws its childhood immunization schedule and stops recommending that vaccines be given to children under two years of age. HIV tests will no longer be done and anti-retroviral drugs will be outlawed”. This article is published on http://www.lewrockwell.com/miller/miller32.1.html)

  3. ) Furthermore, he is very vocal about peer reviewed science being inappropriate, which is contrary to the principles enshrined in 4.25 of Section I of the Code. This clause explains that scientific substantiation should be “… based on statistically valid data, employing a validated, proven, scientific method and applicable to the claim being made”.

  4. ) Finally, he also has a posting on his website urging viewers to “Visit [his] wife’s Vitamark website and view its products”. On this website one can purchase all sorts of supplements, weight loss products and energy drinks. On a prima facie consideration these products do not appear all too dissimilar to those sold by the respondent. As such, it appears that Dr Miller has a potential bias towards these types of products, which casts doubts over his independence.


While the Directorate accepts that one should not always blindly embrace a dogmatic approach to healing, the above points cause some concerns with the Directorate.

Clause 4.1.4 of Section II state that evidence of this nature should “… emanate from or [as appears to be the case here] be evaluated by a person/entity, which is independent, credible, and an expert in the particular field to which the claims relate AND BE ACCEPTABLE TO THE ASA” (our emphasis).

In light of the above, Dr Miller is arguably biased towards supplements over vaccines and his disapproval on peer reviewed science is contrary to clause 4.25 of Section I. It is therefore questioned whether he is “acceptable to the ASA”.

In addition to this, his CV indicates that his expertise appears to lie in surgery, and especially cardiothoracic surgery. The advertisement, however, promotes nutritional supplements. It is not clear from the response or from Dr Miller’s CV why he should be regarded as an expert in this particular field.

Accordingly, he does not meet the requirements of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code and his comments cannot be accepted to substantiate the claims made.

Given the above:

  • The claims must be withdrawn;

  • The process to withdraw the claims must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling;

  • The withdrawal of the claims must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide;

  • The claims may not be used again in its current format.


The complaint is upheld.

For the guidance of the respondent, the Directorate also draws attention to the provisions of Appendix F in relation to the claims made about cancer, heart diseases and diabetes in the advertisement. As no complaint was made against these claims, however, the Directorate will not consider them at this time.

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