Oregano oil ad called 'health hazard'
Aug 31, 2012 / 4:46 pm
It probably tastes better than snake oil, but a BC company's claim that its oregano oil supplement is an effective alternative to the whooping cough vaccine has created a serious public health hazard, a regional health authority says.
The Fraser Health Authority has ordered Enerex Botanicals Ltd. to publish a retraction after the company ran an ad in the Vancouver Sun newspaper earlier this week promoting its oil of oregano product as "the natural way to help combat whooping cough."
The ad, which pictures packages of the supplement next to a vaccine needle that's been snapped in half, says: "It's nice to know that vaccines aren't the only choice to combat this highly contagious bacterial disease."
But Enerex's claim that oregano oil can replace the whooping cough vaccine is not only unsupported by any evidence, and it also poses a health hazard if it encourages members of the public to skip the vaccine, said Dr. Paul Van Buynder of the Fraser Health Authority.
"We were worried that there were going to be parents and people out in the general community that, rather than listening to our message about vaccinating and protecting children, would use oil of oregano and then be exposed to the risks of this disease."
Earlier this year, Van Buynder raised the alarm over a rash of whooping cough infections in the Fraser Valley, with more than 100 confirmed or suspected cases in the span of two months.
Similar increases in infections have prompted warnings across Canada and the U.S. for the public to get vaccinated, particularly for people who come into contact with young children.
Van Buynder wrote Enerex a two-page letter alleging the ad violates the BC Public Health Act, which makes it illegal to create a health hazard by interfering with the suppression of an infectious agent.
The letter demands the company print a retraction that is at least as large as the original ad, which was about 20 centimetres by 15 centimetres.
The retraction must state that oil of oregano is not effective in preventing whooping cough and include an apology for publishing misleading statements, the letter says.
Enerex's marketing manager, Ryan Totten, said the company would not be commenting until it decides how to respond to Fraser Health.
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