Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness company, Goop, is set to expand its brand to Canada, and some medical professionals aren’t happy about it. Paltrow’s Goop has been widely criticized for promoting potentially dangerous products based on pseudoscience.
On Wednesday, Goop chief content officer Elise Loehnen announced that for the first time, the brand is bringing its international wellness summit to Vancouver this fall.
The event, called In Goop Health, is taking place at Vancouver’s Stanley Park on Oct. 27, and tickets will set you back $400, plus tax.
According to a news release, the conference will offer tips on coping with anxiety, changing your relationships and decoding gut health.
Paltrow has described the event as a “summit focused toward being and achieving the optimal versions of ourselves.”
Aside from the Goop conference, the company is also extending its catalogue here and launching some products in Canadian stores.
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Despite the brand’s loyalty, Goop has been scrutinized by many medical experts for some of its products that could be potentially harmful.
“They’re in our backyard now,” Timothy Caulfield, an Edmonton-based health science expert and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, said.
Caulfield, an avid critic of Paltrow’s brand, warned about the dangers of the brand and the lack of scientific evidence.
For example, the company came under fire in January for its do-it-yourself coffee enema to “supercharge your detox.” The US$135 Implant-O-Rama is said to detox the bowel and the body, but the practice has been debunked by the scientific community as there is no evidence to support it.
“You could do damage to your bowel,” Caulfield said. “I think this is absolutely absurd, potentially dangerous and there’s no way the consumer should consider using this product.”
So why are ‘potentially harmful’ products allowed in Canada?
In order for a product to be subject to regulation by Health Canada, it needs to have a specific health claim. Natural health products have to have a product licence, evidence requirement for safety and efficacy, proper labelling (such as a complete list of medical and non-medical ingredients) and any health warnings, according to Health Canada.
However, Caulifield said, wellness brand marketers are “clever” and find a way around this.
For example, a product will list the benefits using vague terms like energize, detox and revitalize, without a specific claim about curing or treating a disease, he said.
In August 2017, Paltrow’s wellness brand was accused of using “deceptive marking practices,” by an advertising watchdog group, Truth In Advertising (TINA.org).
For example, Goop launched a US$66 jade egg designed to be inserted into women’s vaginas to supposedly improve their sex lives. This product was slammed by many in the medical community. Winnipeg-born gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter said the product could increase the risk of bacterial infection.
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The watchdog group said Goop does not possess the scientific evidence required by law to make such claims.
Matthew Stanbrook, a physician and professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said it’s “very, very easy” for natural products to get approval by Health Canada.
“To get a license for a natural health product, you simply need to show some sign that someone, somewhere, sometime once used this as a therapy. And that’s really it,” he said.
He added that there can be real consequences to treating a condition with a natural health product. If it’s ineffective, you’re essentially failing to treat your condition, which could mean it gets worse, he said.
“Often no one knows what the effects of these products are, and it can be found out later that they can, for example, cause damage to the liver or they can be made in a way that isn’t well done and can be toxic when they shouldn’t be.”
Loehnen said Goop’s mission is not to debunk the medical community but to explore the questions that “big pharma” has overlooked.
She added that Goop’s content is vetted by a lawyer and a team of scientists and doctors and the company is also bringing on a fact checker to review and contextualize information on its website.
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— With files from Global News’ Leslie Young and the Canadian Press