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Herbex slimming claims contested

Herbex logo.
Herbex logo.

Consumer activist Dr Harris Steinman has challenged Herbex to conduct a "robust, credible" study to confirm its claims that use of its products results in weight loss.

He specifically challenged the managing director of Herbex holding company Newgroup Holdings, Eddie Bisset, on his website CAMCheck.co.za on Sunday.

"I bet he will not, for he himself suspects or knows that the evidence will not."

Steinman claims Herbex earns around R3-million a month for Attack The Fat.

The weight-loss claims for the product, which were made in a TV commercial, were found by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to be unsubstantiated.

The commercial features the testimonial of one Lindsay, who claimed she lost 43kg since 2006, using Herbex slimmers.

Herbex is not a member of the ASA and said it would not submit to its jurisdiction.

Steinman said: "We have argued for all these years that there is no evidence that Herbex products have any effect on weight loss.

"Herbex relies on the fact that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) (previously the Medicines Control Council) is doing nothing to police or enforce complementary medicine regulations."

He added that ASA was the only body taking action. "Herbex could be selling sea sand as a weight-loss product and get away with it because of the regulatory vacuum."

Herbex and Bisset hit back on Friday and said the ASA was not mandated by the SAHPRA to comment on "complementary medicine".

Steinman said without evidence, Herbex's testimonials could be placebo responses.

"A well-known study of 114 obese individuals assessed a sham weight-loss supplement for 12 weeks. One individual lost over 29kg with a placebo. Testimonials need to be based on proper evidence, and not a belief - even if 'supported by an affidavit signed by the featured customers'.

"Individuals who really believe that they were abducted by aliens, would also 'support this claim by an affidavit'.

"Over years in combating scam and unsubstantiated products, we know there are 'experts' and 'professionals' who are prepared to substantiate these products either for financial gain or incompetence. Some knowingly lie.

"We know of at least four professors, a number of doctors and a range of other 'experts' who have done so."

Herbex submitted product information to SAHPRA for registration. Steinman said this did not mean SAHPRA would register its products.

"Many products fail registration. Considering that SAHPRA do not inform the public which products have failed, we would not know.

"Worse, SAHPRA does not 'fail' a product; it continues to request further information until the company knows that no further information will result in registration and puts the process 'on hold'."

Herbex yesterday said it would no longer comment on this issue.

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