Noni juice miracle cure claims 'unsound'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 12:00am

The Government was urged to step up monitoring and regulation of the growing health food industry yesterday after a popular 'miracle cure' was found being falsely marketed as a cancer and anti-ageing remedy.

Distributors of six brands of Noni juice, which comes from a fruit found in the South Pacific and Hawaii, had been making 'scientifically and medically unsound' claims in marketing material and through a network of individual distributors, the Consumer Council reported. Warning letters have been issued.

Council spokesman Larry Kwok Lam-kwong called on the Government to tighten its grip on monitoring and regulating the health food industry in general.

'It has always been our standpoint that the Government should exercise more control in the sales and distribution of health foods, including Noni juice,' he said.

'As consumers become health-conscious these days . . . they should carefully evaluate whether the health claims made on so-called health products are well substantiated and whether it is worth the large sum of money spent on products whose efficacy is not well proven.'

Drinking Noni juice will, according to some promotional claims, lower blood sugar levels, prevent and control diabetes, prevent and slow tumour growth, strengthen the immune system and provide pain relief and detoxification. The product also claims to serve as an anti-wrinkling, anti-ageing and hair-loss remedy, to improve mental function, help weight loss and assist normal hormone functions, increase vitality and induce a general feeling of well-being.

Hong Kong consumers buy up to 60,000 bottles containing 946ml of the product every month, according to one distributor, Morinda International Hong Kong, making it a world leader in per capita consumption of the drink.

Morinda, which is under investigation by United States attorneys-general for its claims, has already signed a voluntary letter of compliance to stop making medical claims without scientific evidence in the US.

Complaints from local consumers prompted the Consumer Council to carry out its own investigation, which found the 'xeronine' compound supposedly produced in the body by drinking the juice was proposed and named by a researcher in Hawaii, who also proposed 'possible' health benefits.

The Department of Health has issued warning letters to Noni juice agents about the 'miracle cure' claims, prompting them to remove them.

'Consumers can take up any complaints with the Health Department,' Mr Kwok said.

A spokesman for Anton International (Asia) Ltd, distributors of Natural Noni extract, said his company claimed only that the juice would 'encourage good health' and made no specific promises of the product's ability to cure.