Gwyneth Paltrow’s range of wellness products has been criticised by the head of NHS England who warns that one of the recommended procedures poses a considerable health risk.
At an event in Oxford, Sir Simon Stevens said people were wasting their money or taking risks with their health by falling for the lure of “too good to be true” wellness products and cures and singled out the actor’s brand Goop for specific criticism. He said: “Myths and misinformation have been put on steroids by the availability of misleading claims online.”
Stevens traced the development of fake news from the original snake-oil salesman, Clark Stanley in the 19th century, who claimed to cure anything with a potion made from boiling rattlesnakes.
In 1998 Andrew Wakefield claimed that the measles vaccine was linked to autism on the basis of a flawed study of eight children that was later retracted.
“A century later, anti-vax lies have spawned health burdens being borne by children and parents in 2020,” he told the audience at an Oxford Conversations event on the theme of the impact of fake news on our lives. “Half of the cases were in people who are in the so-called Wakefield Generation, born at the turn of the century, and who originally missed out on the vital MMR jab as a result of widespread disinformation.”
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The misinformation about the MMR vaccination has resulted in a steep rise in mumps cases, Stevens said, from about 1,000 in 2018 to approximately 5,000 last year. About half of those affected in 2019 had not been vaccinated.
“And now we have dubious wellness products and dodgy procedures available on the web,” he said. “Fresh from controversies over jade eggs and unusually scented candles, Goop has just popped up with a new TV series in which Gwyneth Paltrow and her team test vampire facials and back a ‘bodyworker’ who claims to cure both acute psychological trauma and side effects by simply moving his hands two inches above a customer’s body.”
Stevens points to examples such as the “psychic vampire repellent”, which sells for $27 on the Goop website, claims that “chemical sunscreen is a bad idea”, and the promotion of colonic irrigation, despite the practice “carrying considerable risks to health”. NHS advice, said Stevens, clearly states there is no scientific evidence for health benefits associated with colonic irrigation.
Stevens hit out at the online sale of products that are useless or potentially harmful to health, citing not only what he considers old fakes, such as homeopathy, but also new offerings. Along with Paltrow’s Goop brand, he cited Russian social media bots undermining public faith in essential vaccines.
In a statement, Goop said it “takes efficacy and product claims very seriously”. It said that on editorial on its website, it is “transparent when we cover emerging topics that may be unsupported by science or may be in early stages of review”. When it comes to products for sale, “we have a robust legal and compliance team that works closely with our science and research group to vet product claim”, it says.