Health food shops `give unsafe advice'

MOST HEALTH food shops are giving poor or wrong advice to customers, which could delay people with serious conditions getting proper medical treatment, according to a Which? report published today.

The advice might lead people to take unsafe combinations of herbal and conventional medicines, the report states. "Generally, the advice people receive is very poor even when the staff have received some in- house training," said Amanda Bristow, author of the report.

"Customers need to be aware that staff are not specifically trained to deal with their complaints and they should check any symptoms with their GP first," she added.

Thousands of people buy dietary supplements, herbal medicines and homeopathic remedies from health food shops every week.

There are about 1,700 independent health food retailers in Britain. But staff are not required to have any training in advising customers. In the Which? survey six researchers, each over 50 , visited 30 health food shops. Half were asked to inquire about remedies to relieve indigestion and the other half to buy kava, a herbal remedy that alleviates mild anxiety.

A GP and two experienced researchers in complementary medicine devised the scenarios and assessed the advice given.

In the first scenario, the correct advice to someone over 40 who experiences indigestion and weight loss is to tell them to go to a doctor because it could be a serious condition.

The researchers said that they had been suffering from indigestion for a few weeks and had not seen their doctor and were not taking any other medication. The shop assistants should not have attempted diagnosis or tried to sell them any products, as they could relieve symptoms and so delay impoprtant medical advice, according to the experts.

Only one shop gave the correct advice. Two shops gave reasonable advice, but the rest gave poor advice, selling the researchers herbal "treatments".

In the second scenario, the researchers asked to buy kava, a herbal drink that has a calming and relaxing effect. Research has shown that it is helpful in the treatment of mild anxiety but it also has sedative properties and should not be taken at the same time as prescription tranquillisers.

Someone taking tranquillisers should not suddenly stop because that could cause withdrawal symptoms.

The researchers said that they had been feeling anxious, were taking tranquillising medication, had seen their GP but wanted to try something natural. Again only one shop, Holland & Barrett in Newcastle upon Tyne, gave the correct advice. One researcher was told to stop taking the tranquillisers immediately, and the rest sold the product with poor advice.

"Health food shops need to learn a lesson from this survey," said Maurice Hanssen, president of the Health Food Manufacturers Association. "Health food shops are very good at giving advice for chronic conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism, general tiredness and depression. If I wanted advice on anything else I would go to a GP," he added.

Check any symptoms with your GP first.

If you are taking any medicines, consult your GP before trying a herbal supplement or remedy.

Mention in the health food shop if you have an existing illness or condition, or are already taking herbal or conventional medicine.

Always read the label.

Some vitamins, supplements and aromatherapy oils are not suitable for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.

How To Avoid

The Dangers

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst/ Project Manager - Financial Services

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client in the Financial...

Cover Supervisors needed in Cheshire & Shropshire

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Cover Supervisor...

Welsh Medium Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Primary Tutors needed in Chester

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Tutoring in Cheshire West &amp...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits