There's Now a Formal Complaint Against Goop's Unproven Health Claims

An advertising watchdog group is taking on Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle site.

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Aug 23 2017, 10:59pm

Mat Hayward  / Getty Images

It's not news that Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle site Goop has made false health claims, including that wearing bio-frequency stickers promotes healing and reduces inflammation, shoving a jade egg up your vagina could improve hormonal balance, and perpetuating the myth that bras might cause breast cancer. The brand, and its recent wellness summit, has become a punchline for late night shows and websites alike.

But now one group is seeking to hold Paltrow accountable. On Tuesday, watchdog group Truth in Advertising said it had filed a complaint with California regulators to investigate Goop for making unsubstantiated health and disease-treatment claims to market products. (Goop has headquarters in California and New York.)

TINA published an investigation of more than 50 instances where Goop claimed, implicitly or explicitly, that the products sold on the site and at the inaugural Goop wellness summit could treat, cure, prevent, alleviate symptoms of, or reduce the risk of developing health conditions including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and infertility. (TINA sent a staffer to the "In Goop Health" summit undercover; tickets ranged from $500 to $1,500.) Making health claims without sufficient evidence happens all the time on wellness blogs, but Goop is profiting off the sale of products marketed this way.

TINA.org executive director Bonnie Patten said in a statement: "Marketing products as having the ability to treat diseases and disorders not only violates established law but is a terribly deceptive marketing ploy that is being used by Goop to exploit women for its own financial gain. Goop needs to stop its misleading profits-over-people marketing immediately."

Patten went even further in comments to Pacific Standard: "Consumers should know that if they are looking to purchase Goop products to deal with medical issues they may be having, that they would be well-advised to consult with a medical health-care provider before they spend their good, hard-earned money on these products."

TINA sent a letter to Goop on August 11 outlining the claims it found problematic and told the company it had until August 18 to make corrections to what it deems deceptive marketing or TINA would file a formal complaint to two California district attorney's offices that are part of the California Food Drug and Medical Device Task Force. (Last October, members of the task force reached a $1 million agreement with MyPillow after TINA.org supplied the task force with the findings of a deceptive marketing investigation into the pillow company.)

TINA said Goop made only limited changes to its marketing and that the majority of the 50 examples cited still contained inappropriate statements, so the group contacted the California DA yesterday. Here are some examples from the letter TINA sent to the DA:

  • Goop's Carnelian crystal "treats infertility," in addition to "eas[ing] period cramps, temper[ing] PMS, regulat[ing] menstrual cycles,…and address[ing] shame around female body parts and sexual trauma."
  • Grounding (i.e., walking barefoot outdoors, or indoors using one of several Goop promoted "earthing gear" products) cures insomnia, reduces inflammation, provides relief from crippling arthritis, reduces chronic pain, speeds healing, reduces stress, and helps with depression, among other things.
  • Goop's "[j]ade eggs can…prevent uterine prolapse," among other things.
  • Goop's essential oils can "help tremendously with chronic issues from anxiety and depression to migraines."
  • Goop's Black Rose Bar is "brilliant for treating acne, eczema, and psoriasis."
  • Goop's Eau De Parfum: Edition 02 – Shiso contains ingredients that improve memory, treat colds, and work as antibiotics.
  • Goop's Aromatic Stress Treatment "can help release anxiety" and "treats the nerves (it's been shown to help alleviate panic attacks)."
  • Products promoted at Goop's June 2017 conference in Los Angeles can provide relief from migraines, depression, insomnia, and panic attacks.

A Goop spokesperson provided the following statement to Tonic:

Goop is dedicated to introducing unique products and offerings and encouraging constructive conversation surrounding new ideas. We are receptive to feedback and consistently seek to improve the quality of the products and information referenced on our site. We responded promptly and in good faith to the initial outreach from representatives of TINA and hoped to engage with them to address their concerns. Unfortunately, they provided limited information and made threats under arbitrary deadlines which were not reasonable under the circumstances. Nevertheless, while we believe that TINA's description of our interactions is misleading and their claims unsubstantiated and unfounded, we will continue to evaluate our products and our content and make those improvements that we believe are reasonable and necessary in the interests of our community of users.

In March, the company launched a line of supplements called Goop Wellness; two of the formulas are intended to treat conditions (adrenal fatigue and postnatal depletion) that are not medically recognized. The company sold more than $100,000 worth of supplements on the first day alone.

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