Do diet detox products work?

Can herbal pills and fruit-based liquids really remove toxins, or is it all just marketing spin?
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03.Product regulation

All the products we looked at are available over the counter in pharmacies, yet only three... are listed with the TGA.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the government body responsible for regulation of medicinal products. Products listed with the TGA are divided into two categories: registered goods and listed goods. 

All registered medicines, deemed to be of higher risk – such as prescription drugs – are individually assessed for efficacy and safety before they reach the shelf, while listed goods, considered to be of lesser risk, usually reach the shelf without any regulatory examination. Only about 20% of new listings in this category are randomly assessed each year for compliance with TGA requirements.

All the products we looked at are available over the counter in pharmacies, yet only three – the Bioglan Intense Cleanse, Blackmores Kickstart Detox and the Skinny Mini – are listed with the TGA.

Dr Ken Harvey, former adjunct associate professor at La Trobe University’s School of Public Health, wrote in an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia that the TGA fails when it comes to protecting consumers in the purpose it was established to achieve: to provide for a national system of controls relating to the quality, safety and efficacy of therapeutic goods.

Harvey also succeeded in bringing a complaint before the Complaints Resolution Panel of the TGA’s Advertising Code Council for misleading claims attached to a detox product last year. The claims made about Slimright 123 Detox n Burn that it would detoxify the body, reduce bloating and cleanse toxin build up were found to be misleading and likely to raise unwarranted expectations. Similar claims are attached to all these products, however only the products listed with the TGA can be regulated under the code.

The remaining seven products, formulated as liquids or powders, escape the ambit of regulation. Such products fall within the realm of Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ). FSANZ’s Health Claims Standard, currently being updated, regulates high-level health claims attached to food products, including powder sachets and oral liquids clearly intended to be sold as diet detox products.

Our experts say that, in lieu of adequate regulation, the onus is on consumers to look out for words used in conjunction with claims on these products, such as “aids” and “assists”, effectively buying leeway for the manufacturers.


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