Broadly speaking, the essay that follows is the latest addition to my
ongoing analysis of the British corporate science lobby and its popular
campaigning arms, skeptics and quackbusters.5 Specifically, the
essay focuses on attacks on Patrick Holford, the independent nutritionist,
while trying to place the quackbusting journalist Ben
Goldacre, who began this round of attacks, in a social and political

In its method, the essay suggests ways of investigating and presenting
information about quackbusters, whether they appear disguised
as journalists or lecturers in Complementary and Alternative
Medicine (CAM). The object of the essay is to familiarise contemporary
activists in the area of alternative health with quackbusters and to
give some suggestion as to how they might be exposed and campaigned

As I explain later, a great deal has changed, especially in relation
to the structure of the quackbuster campaign in England over the past
decade; the initial amateur campaign begun in the mid eighties is now
a professionally-organised lobby. But something else has changed –
something that bodes ill for honest journalism and the integrity of the
scientific community. As I described in my book Brave New World of
Zero Risk,6 the pro-industrial science lobby now professes a philosophical
position that should be untenable to any sane person in a developed society.

Previously, the campaign maintained that it was unlikely that
industrial or environmental factors were responsible for ill health. It
now holds that technological development, and major industries such
as the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, are incapable of creating
human health damage: there is, in the view of The Lobby, no such
thing as an adverse reaction. What was originally the ‘Health Fraud’
movement has joined with the pro-industrial science and technology
lobby7 and they now travel this road together.

The results of this growth in the movement and the concentration
of its message were inevitable, and have been far-reaching. While previously
therapists and doctors, together with schools of thought, came
under attack, now the attacks include as targets, the victims of adverse
reactions and the damaged consumer and citizen on a much wider

The Lobby has left in the wake of its campaign against the environmental
causes of illness, large groups of people suffering from so
called ‘undiagnosed’ illnesses. From the mid-Eighties, when the present
strategy was being resolved, people with myalgic
encephalomyelitis (ME) were publicly insulted by academics, clinicians,
lobby activists and politicians.8 Everything was done in relation
to them except to carry out clinical investigations on their behalf;
instead, it was said that they were mentally ill. Although this strategy
has been evident over the past two decades in the Lobby’s continuous
assault upon those who have ME-like illnesses and such things as Gulf
War syndrome, it has come to a head recently, with the cases of vaccine-
damaged children and their parents.9

The Lobby will do everything in its power to ensure that no clinical
or popular media voice is given to those who experience adverse
reactions to new drugs or new technologies. It accuses those who try
to speak out about adverse reactions to these, not just of bad science,
but of being liars and cheats whose analysis, especially if they are ill,
stem from mental instability.

If any of these straw men are knocked down, being disproved by
proper scientific inquiry and clinical research, The Lobby simply
moves on in the hope that no one is tracking their performance. Aclassic
example of this is its early attack on those who suffered from or
advocated diagnosis of food intolerance or allergy. From the early
Eighties, as more cases of food intolerance began to be reported,
industrial interests in Britain and America reported that both sufferers
and therapists who claimed that this was a real phenomenon were
mentally unstable or in the pay of vitamin companies and New Age
Health gurus, that they had commercial interests in attacking dairy
farming and additive manufacturers.10

Advocates of these theories were active in all the major institutions
of health in Britain, and managed to influence large bodies of
general practitioners, consultants Associations and societies.11 There
came a time, however, when the objective clinical evidence began to
outstrip the absurdity of the idea that everyone who claimed to have
an allergic condition was mentally ill. In 2003, the Royal College of
Physicians published Allergy: the unmet need, and the Lobby’s cover
was blown. By then, however,12 Britain had the highest number of
allergy and food intolerance cases in the developed world, and among
the highest numbers of child deaths from anaphylactic shock.13 There
is an argument that elements within the allopathic medical profession
were directly responsible for these high rates of allergy and death
from anaphylaxis.

The Lobby, naturally, has no reverse gear, nor any desire to make
academic amends for its past disinformation and misstatements, so it
simply hangs on to the thread of an argument but does not any longer
claim allergy and mental illness as one of its central issues. The Lobby
moves on, concentrating on other enduring schemes, such as their
refutation of multiple chemical sensitivity or environmental causes of
cancer. The Lobby is ahistorical, amoral, unscientific and without
intellectual integrity. It cares nothing about the damage caused to individuals
in the wake of developing science and technology. Rather than
address the moral question of what society should do for the individuals
damaged by progress, it has chosen to support the cheapest argument
for industry: the claim that progress causes no damage. The contemporary
trend in the appraisal of adverse reactions, by corporate science,
is utter denial.

The consequence of this denial, in the area of health, will be the
development of ghettos of affected people who are denied any kind of
insurance or compensation for their illnesses. They will also face the
continual ridicule of quackbusters and industrial scientists who insist
that they are shamming, or that their illnesses are consequent upon
some unshakeable cause cemented by fate or the genome. The developed
world, especially Britain and the US, is entering a new era in
which corporate responsibility for any illness is denied completely,
and the idea of recognising environmentally-induced illness becomes
deeply subversive.

I have used Patrick Holford as the principle example of a victim
of The Lobby in this essay because I wrote about him and the attacks
upon him in my 1993 book Dirty Medicine: Science, big business and
the assault on natural health care. Following this, I have been able to
present a narrative with some kind of continuity. My choice of Patrick
Holford’s story is not meant to imply that his story is more worthy or
more important than that of other individuals who have come under
attack from pro-industrial science lobbyists.

%d bloggers like this: