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Choice’s 2017 Hall of Shame

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Choice has revealed its 2017 Hall of Shame, including vitamin gummies and a strange pen-like device that claims to free you from pain

Consumer advocacy group Choice has announced its 2017 Shonky Awards in order to “name and shame this year’s shonkiest companies and products”.

Out of eight winners this year, Vitamin Gummies (or “VitaGummies”) by Nature’s Way (Pharmacare) scored an award.

Choice says Pharmacare claimed its product was good for children’s teeth.

“Some people can benefit from vitamin supplements, for example pregnant women, people on restrictive diets (such as those with allergies) and the elderly. However, children typically don’t fall into these categories. And for people who do need supplements, you don’t have to be a health nut to realise that delivering vitamins via junk food is a terrible idea,” says Choice.

“Yet this is exactly the premise behind vitamin gummies, the sticky, sugary lollies containing various supplements such as calcium and zinc. There are several brands of vitamin gummy products including Health Care and Penta-Vite, but the best known are from Bioglan and Nature’s Way (both Pharmacare brands). 

vita gummies vitamin gummies lollies children's vitamins

“Several vitamin gummy products claim to be good for teeth. But despite any calcium (or any other vitamins) they may contain, getting sticky, sugary gum lodged in your mouth is, in fact, bad for teeth and could cause or contribute to tooth decay,” says Choice.

“Vitamin gummy manufacturers typically don’t even put the sugar content on the label, making it that much harder for people to know just how much sugar they’re consuming.”

Nature’s Way admits its product contains sugar but says the amount is “relatively little”.

“One Kids Smart Vita Gummie contains approximately ¼ teaspoon of sugar. That’s about the same amount of sugar you’d find in a sip of orange juice or in just two teaspoons of kids fruit yoghurt,” the brand counters.

It offers two reasons why the brand decided to include sugar in its vitamin gummies.

“The first is that we think that a small amount of natural sugar is a better choice for young, growing and developing children than artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols or chemicals.

“The other reason is taste, to improve compliance thereby helping parents bridge any nutritional gaps that they feel their children may have. The sugar content is negligible compared to many other food products eaten by children.

“Supplements should not replace a balanced diet and should only be considered when a parent is concerned that their child’s dietary vitamin intake is not adequate,” it adds.

Another product winner was the “Pain Erazor”, a pen-like product that its manufacturers claim offers drug-free pain through “the science of electro-analgesia”.

“If you call the 1800 number advertised a ‘trained consultant’ will call you back to discuss the details of the product, but not before they check if you’ll be paying with Visa or MasterCard,” says Choice.

Source: Choice.

“The Pain Erazor website claims the pen works by exerting pressure on a quartz crystal which produces a tiny electric charge. Apparently this stimulates the body’s endorphins to act as a natural painkiller. In reality, it’s an awful lot like the kind of devices you use to light your stovetop or barbeque.”

The instruction booklet doesn’t contain clinical information, but does include a testimonial by a motorcycle stuntman, says Choice.

“We asked a ‘trained consultant’ on the phone if there were any clinical studies on the effectiveness of the device; we were told ‘it’s more like acupuncture rather than a medical device’.

“Although electric currents are sometimes used for pain relief – a process called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – there’s still a lack of good quality evidence and more studies are needed to prove effectiveness.

“Dr Brad McKay, a Sydney-based GP, says that the Pain Erazor is probably good for lighting your stovetop but unlikely to be beneficial for pain. ‘Any subjective decrease in pain is more likely to occur from sheer boredom after clicking the device 30 to 40 times, rather than from the device itself,’ he adds.”

According to Choice, products must meet one or more of the following criteria in order to qualify for the award:

  • Flaws, faults or failed a standard;
  • Lack of transparency;
  • False claims or broken promises;
  • Consumer detriment or confusion;
  • Poor value for money; and/or
  • Has the propensity to outrage or amuse.

Other 2017 winners included: