British Advertising Standards Authority Criticizes
Ads for YorkTest Laboratories FoodScan Test

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

YorkTest Laboratories Ltd, headquartered in York, UK, describes itself as "Europe's leading provider of food intolerance programmes with over 30 years experience." Its Web site claims that the common symptoms that food intolerances can contribute to include: abdominal pain; acne; aches and pains; asthma; arthritis; bloating; constipation; chronic fatigue syndrome; diarrhoea; eczema; fibromyalgia; irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); fluid retention; headaches; lethargy; M.E.; restless leg syndrome; rhinitis; sinusitis; skin problems; stomach cramps; tension; urticaria (hives); weight loss; and wheezing [1,2]. Its £250 FoodScan Program includes antibody tests for 113 foods that it says can pinpoint problem foods and two telephone consultations with "Nutritional Therapists." It further states that "3 out of 4 people felt better after acting on the results, most within three weeks." [2] The tests are not covered within the UK National Health Service.

The British Advertising Authority has upheld three complaints related to the advertising of the FoodScan test.

In each of the cases, the ASA said that the ads should not be repeated.

In 2007, a "BBC Watchdog" reporter who sent identical blood samples under two fictitious names to YorkTest received contradictory results. One report said he had no food intolerance; the other reported slight reactions to cow's milk, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and orange. A dietitian who commented on the results said that some scientific work has been done on the method used by York Test, but further research was needed to see whether the test can actually diagnose food intolerance [6].

The prevailing scientific view is that food intolerance tests are not trustworthy. The American Academy's Practice Guidelines state: "IgG and IgG subclass antibody tests for food allergy do not have clinical relevance, are not validated, lack sufficient quality control, and should not be performed." [7] Several other prominent medical organizations have expressed similar views [8]. The proper way to investigate food intolerance is a careful history followed by dietary strategies to determine whether suspected foods are problematic [9].

References

  1. Allergy or intolerance? YorkTest Laboratories Web site, accessed June 19, 2012.
  2. Symptoms of food intolerance. YorkTest Laboratories Web site, accessed June 19, 2012.
  3. Bernstein IL and others. Allergy diagnostic testing: An updated parameter, Part 1. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 100:S1-S148, 2008.
  4. Barrett S. Allergies: Dubious diagnosis and treatment. Quackwatch Feb 19, 2007.
  5. ASA Adjudication on YorkTest Laboratories Ltd, Oct 24, 2007.
  6. ASA Adjudication on Health Products for Life, Jan 30, 2008.
  7. ASA Adjudication on YorkTest Laboratories Ltd, June 29, 2012.
  8. Gavura S. IgG Food Intolerance Tests: What does the science say? Science-based Medicine Blog, Feb 2, 2012.
  9. Food intolerance tests: Do food intolerance tests work? Watchdog investigates. BBC Consumer Web site, Jan 9, 2007.

This article was posted on June 19, 2012..

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