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Science Fair Project Exposes GlaxoSmithKline Lies 253

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the fact-checking-advertisements dept.
shadowspar writes "Despite claims made by GlaxoSmithKline that their Ribena soft drinks are high in Vitamin C, two New Zealand high school students found in their science fair research project that at least some formulations of the drink contained no detectable levels of the vitamin. As a result, GSK has been fined over $200,000 by the NZ Commerce Commission and ordered to run newspaper ads admitting that some of their drinks contain no Vitamin C."
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Science Fair Project Exposes GlaxoSmithKline Lies

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @12:51PM (#18556457)
    To think companies will put out products that we consume into
    our bodies that do not contain the ingredients listed on the
    can. Not quite the pet food disaster that happened to animals,
    but it is getting closer.

    Like i tell others, until babies die from baby food, no one
    will string the company owners up to the nearest tree.
  • I like their style (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JackMeyhoff (1070484) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @12:57PM (#18556519)
    "and ordered to run newspaper ads admitting that some of their drinks contain no Vitamin C" This is far more damaging to them than a 200k fine. Its like virtually stick them in the stocks and publically embarassing them. I wish more laws resulted in this for companies rather than simple fines.
  • Only $200k? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 15Bit (940730) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:10PM (#18556617)
    They've been selling Ribena for decades under the advertising that it was high in vitamin C. Hell, my grandma used to tell us to drink it. So unless this is a new zealand local recipe thats at fault, i'm sorry, but an inconsequential fine and an apology in a newspaper in a country of 4.1m people really isn't enough - they've been deceiving the purchasing public in several countries for a long time.
  • by Pyrrhic Diarrhea (1061530) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:12PM (#18556635)
    Most of the stuff we eat these days is less actual "food" and more highly processed combinations of carbohydrates, vitamins and nutrients. High fructose corn syrup is horribly bad for you, yet it is usually the first ingredient in many beverages, syrups, etc. I've even seen it in KFC "honey" packets. In case you're wondering, honey is the third ingredient in their honey, behind the HFCSyrup and Sugar. Truth in advertising is nearly as false as truth in labelling, there being little in the former and none in the latter. And, from TFA, the GSK spinmaster stated "The fact some of our products had incorrect labelling is to us, unacceptable, and we sincerely regret any confusion caused to customers who feel they may have been misled." What utter horseshit. The fact that this ex post facto misrepresentation of what is obviously a premeditated marketing decision is allowed to be fobbed off as a mistake is, IMO, why diabetes (et al) is so rampant now. No (or little) accountability for misleading the public and making false health claims should not be tolerated, ever. If the purpose of government is to serve the welfare of the people, this should be high on the list of priorities. Instead, a $200K fine is the response. If anyone has figures on what the profit would have been from this false claim, I'd be interested in seeing it. The fine should be more than their profits, that way it would actually serve as a deterrant, not just to GSK but to every other company. Sorry for the rant.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @02:26PM (#18557263)
    I live a couple of miles away from the factory where, to the best of my knowledge, the entire world supply of Ribena comes from [google.co.uk]. If everyone stops buying it, the whole area will be plunged into poverty and despair, and I might be able to afford to buy a small hovel in the corner of a field somewhere.
  • by 15Bit (940730) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @02:44PM (#18557411)
    Actually, yes - I think i'd also like to address the implicit assumption that everyone in the world lives in the US. It may come as a surprise to you, but a sedentary lifestyle is actually NOT "the average lifestyle of most people" in the majority of the world.

    I'm afraid i don't find your earlier comment very "insightful", particularly in view of this latest addition. It seems that what you're actually saying is that you can feel better about your sedentary lifestyle if you drink aspartame based drinks rather than sugar based ones. And possibly improve your risk factors slightly too. But thats about as insightful as suggesting that walking down the middle of a freeway "with the flow of traffic" is safer than going "against the flow of traffic". Its true, but it wilfully ignores the real risk.

    Oh, and this thread is not about marathon runners. Nor even about health freaks. Its about the benefits of a sensible lifestyle. And how in the context of such a lifestyle the choice "sugar or aspartame?" is about as important as "red tie or green tie?".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:01PM (#18557571)

    until babies die from baby food, no one will string the company owners up to the nearest tree.
    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/11/10683295 64337.html?from=storyrhs [smh.com.au]

    Dead babies: check
    Strung-up execs: ....
  • by reub2000 (705806) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:29PM (#18557835)
    Does anyone remember Pirate's Booty?
  • Re:Only $200k? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:47PM (#18557985) Homepage

    Now the other side of the coin is that Vitamin C is one of the most overhyped vitamins ever. Small amounts are neccessary for the production of healthy tissue, and that's about it. There is no medical evidence that it helps prevent or cure colds, etc. And a balanced diet provides more than enough Vitamin C.
    That depends entirely on your definition of "enough". The USRDA of 60mg a day is just enough to prevent scurvy. The problem with vitamin C is that because it isn't a patentable drug, very little research is done beyond the occasional study of the classic wive's tales about it curing colds and such. When you look at the animal kingdom and vitamin C, you can't help but question the 60mg USRDA. Most animals produce their own vitamin C, and only a very few do not. The biological process for making vitamin C from glucose requires four enzymes. Primates (which includes us) share a damaged gene for producing the fourth enzyme. We have the other three, but because we lack the fourth, the incomplete product of the third enzyme is simply broken down and recycled. Only primates, guinea pigs, red vented bulbul birds, channel catfish, and Indian fruit-eating bats require dietary vitamin C--- and in all cases this is traceable to a genetic mutation breaking the enzyme chain that originally allowed them to produce it from glucose. So the question then becomes, "how much vitamin C would we be producing internally if the enzyme chain were intact?" Well, an examination of vitamin C producing mammals indicates that a healthy animal produces and average of anywhere from 50 to 300mg per kg per day, and an animal with a serious illness will generate anywhere from 10 to 50 times that amount. Even taking the low average, it sure seems like a 150kg man should be getting 7500mg per day rather than 90mg, and that doesn't even take into account how you'd need to take 15000mg orally to equal 7500mg self-produced because the digestive system destroys half of it in the absorption process.

    See, before we even get to the possible benefits of vitamin C, we already have good reason to believe 90mg/day is an unnaturally low number. We, as a species, suffer from hypoascorbia due to a genetic defect. The fact that it hasn't killed us doesn't mean it's healthy. Not all mutations are good. If vitamin C is so inconsequential, why did all animal life evolve to produce so much of it?
  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:08PM (#18558231)
    Orange Juice is also interesting since it contains Benzene, a known carcinogen. The longer you keep orange juice, the more benzene is formed. So orange juice is not completely beneficial.
  • Re:sugar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:25PM (#18558379) Homepage

    Regular sucrose may be a natural part of our diet, but the HFCS [thenutritionreporter.com] that has replaced it in most countries (you guessed it: because it's cheaper!) is not.
    Oh, I totally agree. Corn has no place in soft drinks! Still, I'd take the unnaturally produced, government subsidy cheapened HFCS over aspartame.
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:31PM (#18558421) Homepage

    and for them, we can have either a. your holier than thou scorn at their lack of willpower. or b. aspartame

    think of aspartame as methadone for the heroin that is sugar, and accept that some humpty dumpties need it, and all of the evils of aspartame you describe is still less evil than continuing to consume sugar
    Oh, so now you're changing the debate from "aspartame is harmless" to "aspartame is better than nothing for those that can't control their cravings". Well, that's not true either. It's not a binary choice. Take, for example, stevia [wikipedia.org]. Totally natural, non-carbohydrate sweetener. Currently it's not permitted to be used or sold in the US as anything but a "dietary supplement". Why? It's not patentable. The artificial sweetener industry leaned on the FDA to keep it from killing their cash cow, patented, chem lab monstrosities.
  • by pbhj (607776) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:34PM (#18558455) Homepage Journal
    Dunbal>>> "There is no medical evidence that it helps prevent or cure colds, etc."

    The BBC reported a year or more ago that the latest research suggests that supplements can reduce the duration of a cold once you've got it but don't do anything for prevention - my current use of Vit.C follows this, I take on orange juice and citrus fruit when I have a cold and occassionally even have tablets.

    Member of the Finnish DOH and an epidemiology expert >>>"Duration of cold episodes that occurred during prophylaxis was significantly reduced in both children and adults. For children this represented an average reduction of 14% in symptom days, while in adults the reduction was 8%."

    See http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request =get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020168 [plosjournals.org]; also http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/ DSH/colds.html [quackwatch.org] is a slightly less positive review that still agrees that duration can be reduced by supplementing ascorbic acid intake.

    That all sounds like it "helps ... cure colds" to me.
  • Re:Only $200k? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by edschurr (999028) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @05:40PM (#18559385)
    Dun Malg:

    Even taking the low average, it sure seems like a 150kg man should be getting 7500mg per day rather than 90mg
    Vitamin C, MedlinePlus, NIH:

    Vitamin C toxicity is very rare, because the body cannot store the vitamin. However, amounts greater than 2,000 mg/day are not recommended because such high doses can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.
  • by astonishedelf (845821) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @07:10PM (#18560539)
    A little surprised to see this appear under Cowboy Neal's byline on 31/3 as I submitted the story on the 27/3. But I gather we're both behind the times so I guess no harm done...

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