My response to their response to my response to the ‘PH’ article

I was pleased to get a personal response from journalist Victoria Stewart following my complaint about her stupid ‘PH’ article. I was even more pleased to discover the Evening Standard had removed the article in question from their website. I did not however feel they had gone far enough and outlined my concerns in another email:

Charlotte,

Thank you for responding to my complaint and thanks to Victoria for her clarifications – as I do not have contact details for her, I would be grateful if you could forward this on.

I realise that this was intended as a fairly light hearted ‘lifestyle’ article rather than a medical feature as such and would not expect Victoria to be a specialist in science or medicine. I also believe she wrote the article in good faith and did not intend to mislead anybody. But the article was misleading.

Firstly, there are a number of inaccuracies in the quote from Dr Frank Lipman. I do not know if Lipman is a qualified medical doctor (though I suspect he is not) and I am not querying whether or not he made those statements. I am however challenging the accuracy of the statements themselves. It is completely unambiguous to say ‘the average, sleep-deprived, hard-partying Londoner will probably have an acidic pH below 7.’ It is also inaccurate. Furthermore, I believe oranges have a pH of around 3 or 4. Lipman suggests blood pH of the hypothetical ‘Londoner’ would ‘give a bitter orange a run for its money’. This is misleading and inaccurate in the extreme.

Although Lipman was correct to say that healthy blood has a pH of between 7.35 and 7.45, he was wrong to suggest that (in the context of the hypothetical ‘Londoner’) being ‘stressed’ or eating sugary food can cause acidosis. Whereas it is fair to suggest ‘stress’ can lead to fatigue, mood swings and depression, it is misleading to suggest it is likely to lead to acidosis.

Victoria is not clear about how her blood pH was tested or whether it was tested after the regime though she does say ‘my own pH test – a blood sample from my GP – showed I was on the wrong side of 7’. I am unclear whether the test was carried out by the GP or by ‘blood analyst’ Gareth Edwards. If the result of the test was below 7, I suspect the test was done by Gareth Edwards as I assume he is not a medical professional – which casts doubts on the reliability of any tests he may carry out. Victoria says in the response below that she was ‘given misleading information by a person in the health industry’. I assume Edwards was that person. As I stated in my original complaint, Edwards (on his Energise for Life website) promotes the ‘pH Miracle’ alkaline diet and Robert Young, who he says has been ‘widely recognised as one of the top research scientists in the world’. Because Young advises sufferers of cancer, diabetes and AIDS to stop taking medication, I believe in some cases, this regime can be dangerous (as well as unnecessarily restrictive and therefore possibly not a healthy balanced diet).

Titles like ‘blood analyst’, ‘nutritionist’ and ambiguous terms such as ‘health industry’ lead the general public to believe that the likes of Morgan and Edwards are qualified medical professionals, and therefore give them credibility they do not deserve. I feel most people would equate ‘blood analyst’ with ‘haematologist’ in the same way many do not distinguish between the terms ‘nutritionist’ and ‘dietician’. I do not blame Victoria personally for being taken in by this, but I do feel the newspaper has a duty to be clear on these points. Articles such as this exacerbate the general problem by promoting such practitioners and by reiterating misconceptions about diet and health.

While I accept that the Evening Standard article was not directly making any frightening suggestions or claims, for example regarding cancer, my worry is that it promotes people like Edwards. It gives them public recognition and a credibility they do not deserve and puts a positive spin on the Alkaline Diet movement in general. I think people tend to believe what they read in the pages of a reputable newspaper such as the Evening Standard. A vulnerable person could read an article like this, contact a company such as Energise for Life and then be tempted to believe Young’s seductive theories on diet and health.

I was pleased to see that the article is no longer on the website but I do not feel you have gone far enough. I ask that you print some kind of apology or correction to the article in question. I would be happy for you to print my concerns alongside.

4 responses to “My response to their response to my response to the ‘PH’ article

  1. Great work on this.

    I’m sure V.S. didn’t intend to mislead, but what did she expect, when she was essentially being recruited to act as an advertising assistant?

    Tip: when people with something to sell come to you as a journalist and ask you to cover them, that’s not journalism, it’s PR.

  2. I agree, it was pure PR – though sadly not within the remit of the ASA.

    I think it could have been a great article though if someone had done this regime and written about it in an informed, critical way. It could have been a good debunking and I think there’s comic potential too.

    I think the next logical step for me is to complain to the ASA about http://www.raw-and-juicy.com/ and http://www.energiseforlife.com/. There is plenty of material there worthy of complaint.

    I’ve had a look at http://www.alchemythecentre.co.uk/ too but funnily enough, there is no mention of ‘alkaline yoga’ and I couldn’t find anything about ‘conditioning units that continually release negative ions into the air, eliminating airborne allergens and bacteria’. So I won’t be complaining about them.

  3. Pingback: More complaints to the ASA and the Evening Standard | Josephine Jones

  4. I have just found out that perhaps this would have been covered by the ASA after all (presumably depending on what arrangement they had with Raw and Juicy):

    “Advertisement features, announcements or promotions, sometimes referred to as “advertorials”, that are disseminated in exchange for a payment or other reciprocal arrangement should comply with the Code if their content is controlled by the marketers rather than the publishers.”

    http://www.copyadvice.org.uk/Ad-Advice/Advice-Online-Database/Advertisement-Features.aspx

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