Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop has been criticised by Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, for perpetuating “myths and misinformation” that pose a risk to public health.

The comments were made last Thursday at an event entitled ‘An Oxford Conversation: The impact of fake news on our lives’, during which Stevens joined Damian Collins MP and BBC Radio 4 presenter Sarah Montague for a panel discussion on the phenomenon of fake news and how this problem might be best addressed by governments and technology companies alike.

During the event, Stevens hit out against those who spread misinformation, calling them “quacks, charlatans and cranks,” and warning of the dangers of false information regarding health that can be easily disseminated online and in the media. Specifically, he directed his criticisms at Goop, the lifestyle and wellness brand whose products he referred to as “too good to be true.”

Goop, the brand launched by Paltrow in 2008 with the aim to “start hard conversations, crack open taboos, and look for connection and resonance everywhere we can find it,” as stated on their website, has been subject to media scrutiny over the past few months, following the sale of controversial products such a candle named ‘This Smells Like My Vagina’ and the release of a Netflix series, ‘The Goop Lab’, in which the Goop team try out the company’s various treatments. The beginning of each episode contains the disclaimer: “the following series is designed to entertain and inform – not provide medical advice.”

In September 2018, the company was fined $145,000 in civil penalties for making “unsubstantiated” marketing claims surrounding a $66 jade egg meant to “increase sexual energy and pleasure” – an assertion that was refuted by gynaecologists around the world. The outcome of the lawsuit means the brand is no longer able to make claims about their products that are unsubstantiated by medical research, although the products are still allowed to be sold.

Stevens referred to this controversial product in his discussion of the dangers posed by the company, also mentioning the “vampire facials” and a “psychic vampire repellant” tested by the so-called ‘Goopers’ in the Netflix series. He noted that the company’s promotion of colonic irrigation, defined by the brand on their website as “essentially a way to hydrate and irrigate your colon,” was directly opposed to advice from the NHS that “there is no scientific evidence to suggest there are any health benefits associated with colonic irrigation.” He also criticised the brand’s $135 Coffee Enema kit, which is listed online along with the description: “if you wish to use a home system and you know what you are doing.”

A spokeswoman from Goop said: “Goop takes efficacy and product claims very seriously. With the editorial and commercial aspects of our business, we sometimes approach different topics from different points of view.

“On the editorial side, we are transparent when we cover emerging topics that may be unsupported by science or may be in early stages of review. When products are available for retail sale, we have a robust legal and compliance team that works closely with our science and research group to vet product claims.”

“We are proud of our procedures and internal protocols and we are constantly evolving to ensure our approach is best in class. We applaud the important work that NHS does, and often take our cues from the UK standard. For example, in the case of chemical sunscreens that the NHS cited in their speech, the US bans only 11 personal care ingredients while over 1,000 are banned in the UK. It’s for that reason we recommend non-toxic sunscreens.”

Along with Goop, Stevens also criticized the ‘anti-vax’ movement in his warnings against fake news, attributing the steep rise in cases of mumps to the ‘widespread disinformation’ being spread about vaccinations online.

For Cherwell, maintaining editorial independence is vital. We are run entirely by and for students. To ensure independence, we receive no funding from the University and are reliant on obtaining other income, such as advertisements. Due to the current global situation, such sources are being limited significantly and we anticipate a tough time ahead – for us and fellow student journalists across the country.

So, if you can, please consider donating. We really appreciate any support you’re able to provide; it’ll all go towards helping with our running costs. Even if you can't support us monetarily, please consider sharing articles with friends, families, colleagues - it all helps!

Thank you!