BANT – no opinion on Rath [updated]

September 18, 2008 at 10:22 am (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Nutritionism) (, , , , , , , , )

I’ve received a response from the British Association of Nutritional Therapists to the email I sent regarding the actions of Matthias Rath in South Africa. Reprinted below, minus names:

Thank you for your email.

BANT practitioners are expected to work alongside the medical practitioner and clients must not be led to believe that nutritional therapy replaces that medical care. The association has no opinion to offer on Dr Raths vitamin trials.

Regards

A fairly bland, inoffensive response that avoids making direct comment on the individual in question but quite rightly states that “clients must not be led to believe that nutritional therapy replaces that medical care”. Of course they must not be led to believe that nutritional therapy replaces medical care – that would be dangerous and irresponsible. Hang on a minute, though. Clients must not be led to believe that nutritional therapy replaces medical care? It’s a good job Patrick Holford isn’t a BANT practitioner, what with his claims that “food is better medicine than drugs” and – worse – that “AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful, and proving less effective than Vitamin C”. He is a fellow of BANT, though – so I emailed them again to check whether public comments such as the ones Holford makes would be acceptable for an FBANT.

UPDATE: Well, I emailed them:

Thank you for your response. As you have been very specific in referring to practitioners and clients, I wonder if you would be able to tell me whether a Fellow of BANT would be allowed to lead clients to believe that nutritional therapy can replace medical care? I would also be interested to know whether a BANT practitioner or a BANT Fellow would be allowed to lead the public to believe that nutritional therapy can replace medical care (for example, by publicly suggesting that nutrition is superior to medical intervention by claiming that food is better medicine than drugs or that “AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful, and proving less effective than Vitamin C”)?

Reply:
No practitioner should encourage an HIV client to change their medication.
Regards
*ION staff are still on their summer holidays it seems – out-of-office replies are all I’ve had from the two people I emailed.

8 Comments

  1. UPDATED: An open invitation to the ‘alternative’ medicine community: comment on Matthias Rath’s tactics « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science said,

    […] 2: JDC’s excellent blog has sought and reproduced a response from the nutritional therapy body BANT. Sadly, though, BANT […]

  2. jdc325 said,

    Dr Aust has made some interesting points here: What say the nutritionistas?

    I like these ideas in particular:

    If they had any genuine ability to self-regulate – and this, remember, is something that nutritionists and other CAM practitioners are repeatedly telling the Government they are ready and keen to do – they should surely be speaking out about what a bad example Rath has set.

    They should be admitting how what has been happening in South Africa bears out almost everything the sceptics and bad science watchers have said about the worst excesses of unlicensed nutritionists and nutrition companies.

    They should be setting out how they would devise codes of practise for nutritional supplement manufacturers and nutritional therapists that would try and prevent these kind of abuses.

    They should be insisting on open debate, on the scientific facts, and condemning the use of defamation law as a gagging tactic in matters of science and medicine, real or “alternative”.

  3. The gripes of Rath said,

    […] irresponsibility after a letter was sent to them to ask about their reaction. Their answer , on jdc325’s weblog was “The association has no opinion to offer on Dr Raths vitamin […]

  4. jdc325 said,

    I’ve also emailed EHPM (European Health Products Manfs) and P Holford

  5. draust said,

    I admire your persistence, jdc.

    I really can’t believe none of the Nutritionista organisations have said a thing. Or rather, I can. Truly dismal.

    Incidentally, I’ve been hunting around on German websites for info on Rath and it is striking how much more forthright the press coverage of him there is compared to the UK – the German stuff from the last few years takes essentially the same tone as Ben Goldacre does… for instance,Der Spiegel has described Rath variously as a “vitamin peddler” “miracle healer” “vitamin Guru” and even more bluntly “a charlatan”. Though my absolute favourite description of him of theirs is “vitamin-pill Pope Matthias Rath”.

    One is tempted to think that the difference in the libel laws, and Rath’s litigiousness, explains why Rath gets treated much more gingerly in the UK. I am rubbing my hands hoping Ben and the Guardian have more on Herr Dr Matthias to come.

  6. jdc325 said,

    Thanks for your comment Dr Aust. You’re right – it is truly dismal. In the past, I rather naively assumed that nutritionists were as interested in “doing the right thing” as anyone else. I was sadly mistaken.

    “I am rubbing my hands hoping Ben and the Guardian have more on Herr Dr Matthias to come.”
    Yes, I read Saturdays column in the Guardian and was pleased to spot this:

    In a world where not one person from the world of alternative therapies can bring themselves to criticise even vitamin pill entrepreneur Matthias Rath for his dangerous practices in South Africa – indeed some still actively support him, as we may soon see – critical self-appraisal is simply business as usual in academia.

    The Bad Science Blog Version.

  7. Claire said,

    What strikes me about the Rath business and the silence of the alternative nutritionists is how it gives the lie to their rhetoric of ’empowerment’. I fail see how attempts to make life difficult for the Treatment Action Campaign, a grassroots patient group which has furthered the cause of access to ARVs in the face of official opposition, represent any kind of empowerment. There are many words to describe premature death due to not being able to access effective treatment but ’empowering’ is definitely not among them, as I imagine the families left behind could testify.

  8. jdc325 said,

    Excellent point re the disempowering quality of AltMed Claire – disempowerment is a recurring theme on the Bad Science blog and featured most recently in a piece on medicalisation of everyday life: here

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