An Allergy to Truth

According to Allergy UK, they are “a national medical charity established to represent the views and needs of people with allergy, food intolerance and chemical sensitivity.” Amongst their aims they say they are there to

Enabl[e] people with allergy, food intolerance and chemical sensitivity to receive appropriate diagnosis and treatment through education of healthcare professionals and the provision of dedicated services.

Allergy UK give awards to services they feel help promote their aims and “will generally benefit allergy sufferers and improve their state of health and wellbeing.” They have given an award to YorkTest who are ‘specialists in food intolerance testing’. They say,

The clinically validated York Test foodscan range represents a breakthrough in food intolerance testing. Using the Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (elisa) method, the tests provide a rapid, accurate and reproducible way of determining food intolerance and identify which foods your body is and isn’t coping with properly from a pin-prick blood sample.

Patrick Holford gives similar endorsements to YorkTest,

My favourite laboratory is Yorktest Laboratories whose tests are clinically validated. Not only do they use this technology but they are the only lab to offer a home test kit for food and chemical allergies that requires a pinprick blood sample. This is sent back to YorkTest laboratories who then test you for sensitivity to all foods including gluten, gliadin, wheat and yeast. They send you a home test kit that enables you to take a pinprick of blood, so you don’t have to go to your doctor.

Yorktest have also carried out a number of ‘double-blind’ trials on their IgG test and have solid science to back up their claims of effectiveness.

His schools food charity “Food for the Brain” is supported by YorkTest.

Now what is funny is that the Advertising Standards Authority disagree with all this. Some mischievous member of the public complained about their adverts. The issues considered were:

The complainant challenged whether:

1. the claim “clinically validated” could be substantiated; and

2. the advertisers could substantiate the efficacy of the test

The ASA challenged whether:

3. the ads made claims that could lead to a mistaken diagnosis

All three complaints were upheld. YorkTest were found to be in breach for unsubstantiated claims, untruthfulness and for claims about Health and Beauty and Therapies.

This is about time. Misdiagnosis of allergies caused people to drastically and unnecessarily alter their diets in ways that may be harmful. It causes distress and may prevent them from seeking proper medical help. There is a huge industry out there preying on peoples concerns about allergies and food intolerances and it needs reigning in.

How long will it be do you think before Allergy-UK take away their award to YorkTest? And how long before Patrick Holford amends his web pages?

My personal guess is never. I may be wrong.


A little dickie bird has just pointed out that a trustee of the charity Allergy-UK is a DR MICHAEL CHARLES MATTHEWS.

A Dr Michael C Matthews MB, BS, FHS was also a medical director of YorkTest.

5 Comments on An Allergy to Truth

  1. Given my family experience, what is of real help to people with allergy related problems is access to knowledgable clinical care and advice. Unfortunately, in the UK, there is a problem regarding provision of such care, as highlighted in the recent (26/09/07)HoL Sci&Tech Committe’s report on Allergy, and the three previous reports (RCP (2003), House of Commons Health Select Committee (2005) and D0H Review of Allergy Services (2006). It is high time this was remedied, otherwise we will continue to have this vacuum filled by people promoting their unproven treatments, be it homeopathy, kinesiology, unproven food tests, or, indeed, breathing techniques which claim to treat – even ‘reverse’ – asthma and allergies. Asthma and allergy can kill, as I am sadly too well aware.

  2. Interesting post. It is always worrying when quackery raises its head in the form of misrepresentation of benefits of a treatment.

    A reminder of the number and the size of various fines awarded against major drugmakers for criminal behaviour in the US, such as fraudulent marketing, should though be enough to scare any small organisation away from going too far.

    From the number of incidents that come up on the internet, I would think that Pfizer hold the record on the number of criminal convictions within the drug industry, but the fines drug makers are ordered to pay, though in the £millions, are peanuts compared to their annual profits. In such cases a fine does little to stop their illegal activities and leaves the drug maker free to continue generously rewarding the many leading physicians attached to them for lending their names to misleading publications on the companies’ behalf and for promoting the publications as ‘evidence’ of efficacy and safety.

    The criminal fines are generally in the US, but the drugs are on the market worldwide and many people are now sadly aware that misconduct in science can kill.

    Quackery is profitable it would seem wherever it is practised.

  3. The House of Lords Science & Technology Committee don’t seem very happy either. They state

    “Given the lack of evidence for these services we were concerned to learn that Allergy UK recommended the Yorktest service for food intolerance. ”

    and recommended

    “We urge general practitioners, pharmacists and charities not to endorse the use of these products until conclusive proof of their efficacy has been established.

    House of Lords report

  4. My sister recently used the Yorktest and has completely eradicated very painful symptoms from the day she eliminated the specific foods. I took the test 6 years ago after a 4-year phase of worsening symptoms (very different to those of my sister). After the test and eliminating 5 foods I gradually got better over months, although I have still not eliminated the problem. I also called the company and nagged them until I was put through to someone who knew some science, because I was very sceptical.

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