ASA Adjudication on Koren Publications
21 October 2009

Koren Publications
Corporate Headquarters
777-K Schwab Road
Hatfield, PA 19440
United States

Media: Leaflet
Sector: Health and beauty
Number of complaints: 1
Complaint Ref: 101205

Background

A leaflet entitled “Infants & Babies” promoted the benefits of chiropractic treatment. The ad stated “There seems to be no limit to the conditions which can respond to chiropractic care: colic, difficult breast-feeding, Erbs palsy (an arm is limp and undeveloped), torticollis (twisted neck), unbalanced face and skull development, foot inversion, nervousness, ear, nose and throat infections, allergies and sleep disorders, and projectile vomiting”. The ad went on to state “Babies are very top-heavy. Mild to moderate shaking of a child can result in serious neurological damage since their neck muscles are undeveloped. This damage has been known to occur after playfully throwing the child up in the air and catching him/her. The damage caused is called Shaken Baby Syndrome. In addition to being shaken or thrown, being spanked can also cause spinal or neurological damage to a child. Any child who has been subjected to this rough behaviour desperately needs a chiropractic checkup to prevent possible nerve damage”.

Issue

The complainant challenged whether:

1. the treatment claims relating to the following conditions: Colic, Difficulty breast-feeding, Nervousness, Ear, nose and throat infections, Allergies, Sleep disorders and Projectile vomiting, could be substantiated; and

2. the claims discouraged people from seeking medical advice for conditions detailed in point (1), especially Shaken Baby Syndrome.

CAP Code
3.17.150.150.3

Response

1. Koren Publications (Koren) said their leaflets did not claim that chiropractic could treat any specific condition. They explained that the purpose of chiropractic was to correct the body of subluxations (re-adjustment of the bones within the spine) in order to affect the bodys overall functioning. They believed it was important to tell parents that they should check their childs spine and structural alignment regardless of whether or not the child was healthy; Koren believed that a healthy spine was comparable to the bodys need for good nutrition. Koren sent abstracts for a number of case studies and trials which they argued demonstrated the efficacy of chiropractic for the advertised conditions in babies and infants.

2. Koren argued that Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) was not a disease, but rather the result of trauma for which chiropractors could adjust the possible impact this may have on the spine. They believed that anyone who had been in an accident or suffered a trauma should have their body structure analysed for subluxations. Koren explained that they were not discouraging medical advice and argued that some minor alignments that affect the spine could only be treated by chiropractors

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted Koren's argument that they did not claim to treat any particular condition. However, we considered that the claim "There seems to be no limit to the conditions which can respond to chiropractic care", followed by a list of conditions, implied that chiropractic was efficacious as a treatment for those conditions. Furthermore, we noted the ad featured a testimonial about a baby, suffering from a variety of conditions, which claimed that "his health returned to normal" after chiropractic adjustments and considered that furthered the ads impression that chiropractic care would cure or alleviate those conditions. We considered that abstracts, case studies and references alone were not sufficient to demonstrate the efficacy of chiropractic in the treatment of the advertised conditions and therefore concluded the ad was likely to mislead.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), and 50.1 (Health & beauty products and therapies).

2. Upheld

We noted the ad claimed that any child subject to rough behaviour or mild to moderate shaking "desperately needs a chiropractic checkup to prevent possible nerve damage". We considered that SBS was a serious condition, commonly associated with maltreatment, for which immediate medical advice should be sought. Because the ad targeted parents of very young children, and invited them to seek the advice of a chiropractor for SBS and other potentially serious conditions for children, we concluded the ad could discourage parents from seeking appropriate medical advice from a general medical practitioner.

On this point, the ad breached 50.3 (Health & beauty products and therapies).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We advised Koren to consult the CAP Copy Advice team before making references to medical conditions in future.

This article was posted on January 14, 2010.

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