USN sues SA’s pseud-products buster for R2m
Ultimate Sports Nutrition wants consumer activist and quackery buster, Harris Steinman (pictured) to pay for R2-million for calling its owner, Albe Geldenhuys, a ‘scam artist’, ‘liar’, ‘quack’, ‘fraud’ and ‘snake oil salesman’.
R2-million. That’s how much sport supplement company Ultimate Sports Nutrition (USN) wants consumer activist and quackery buster, Harris Steinman (pictured) to pay for calling its owner, Albe Geldenhuys, a “scam artist”, “liar”, “quack”, “fraud” and “snake oil salesman”.
USN’s lawyers have sent Steinman a summons to the Cape High Court, in which they accuse him of defaming USN and Geldenhuys.
Steinman has been a consumer activist and outspoken advocate against quackery for decades. He regularly lodges complaints – which usually succeed — with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). He runs a popular website called CamCheck which describes itself as a “South African consumers’ guide to scams, pseudoscience and voodoo science”.
Geldenhuys, a former winner of the male beauty pageant Manhunt International, started USN in South Africa in 2000. The company has since gone multinational, with offices in the UK, US, Australia and Ireland. The company’s web page says it is “at the forefront of sports nutrition research, making effective sports nutrition supplements”.
Earlier this year, USN lodged an internet takedown notice against Steinman’s website which was hosted in South Africa with Hetzner. So Steinman moved CamCheck to an offshore host.
If you Google “USN Albe Geldenhuys”, the first hit is a CamCheck article titled, Albe Geldenhuys of USN, a master scam artist?.
Steinman says USN has had dozens of complaints lodged against it at the ASA. In most cases USN has withdrawn the advertising claims or the ASA has ruled against it. “There is no robust proof that the majority of USN products, bar a few, are able to benefit consumers as USN claims – above that of a placebo response,” Steinman states on his site.
Steinman is widely respected in medical circles. Roy Jobson, a medical doctor and professor of pharmacology, describes CamCheck as a pioneering public service “where citizens can quickly check up on a large number of products being sold, some of which do not have evidence that they work, and may even in some instances be illegal”. He worries about the consequences of Steinman being silenced by a lawsuit, “This important work should not be hampered by corporations trying to silence his criticism of their particular products.”
Steinman says USN’s litigation will not dampen his consumer activism. On the contrary, he says: “Hopefully USN’s actions will put the spotlight on how it, and other companies, conduct business. And if this goes as far as the Constitutional Court, (it might) put pressure on the regulators to do more to protect consumers.”
Source: Daily Maverick: Read the full article
Pseudoscience or bad science can harm consumers in at least three ways. This harm can be direct, as when herbal preparations result in allergic reactions or unexpected drug interactions.
Or, it can be indirect, as is the case with vaccine denialism, which not only exposes the denialist to avoidable risks of serious disease, but also impacts on ‘herd immunity’, thus threatening his or her entire community.
Or it can simply result in wasting money on products that can’t deliver on their promises. Then there is the harm to public understanding of the scientific method, where claims need to be held accountable to evidence, and violations of the trust consumers place in manufacturers that the claims made about their products are accurate….
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