Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle platform Goop is facing new claims that it's duping customers in the name of wellness.
On Tuesday, Truth in Advertising, an advertising watchdog non-profit, requested that California regulators on the California Food Drug and Medical Device Task Force investigate Goop for its marketing of unsubstantiated health benefits. The request follows an investigation published on Truth in Advertising's website, TINA.org, which found that, despite a lack of medical evidence, 50 Goop and third-party products promoted on the company's website were illegally promising the potential to cure, treat, prevent, or mitigate symptoms of illnesses including depression, insomnia, infertility, and arthritis. Federal law bans misleading statements from labeling; California law additionally prohibits fraudulent advertising.
"TINA.org's most important takeaway was that Goop was exploiting vulnerabilities of women to make money," says Bonnie Patten, Truth in Advertising's executive director. "When they say that they can treat infertility with a crystal, that is a very serious health issue for many women who may be very much wanting to have a child, and it's taking advantage of somebody's inability to get pregnant, which is just horrible."
Products flagged in TINA.org's investigation of the Goop website include Crystal Harmonics, which claims to cure infertility; Goop's famous "jade egg," which the company says can prevent uterine prolapse; and a hair treatment that supposedly eases anxiety and depression. At the Goop Wellness Summit, held in Los Angeles in early June, a TINA.org representative came across claims that Bulletproof coffee could "help with cancer" and "Rose Flower Essence Tincture" could, among other benefits, help cease panic attacks.
"Consumers would be well-advised to consult with a medical health-care provider before they spend their good, hard-earned money on these products."
Goop also claimed some of its products could treat non-medically recognized conditions, such as "adrenal fatigue" and "postnatal depletion," according to TINA.org. Truth in Advertising did not perform a comprehensive search of Goop's website during the investigation, Patten says; rather, it singled out a "very conservative" sampling of claims.
TINA.org's letter follows an initial communication with Goop, Inc. and its founder and chief executive officer, Paltrow, on August 11th, in which TINA.org promised to alert government regulators if unproven health claims were not amended by August 18th. On August 17th, TINA.org said, it provided the company with a list of webpages featuring such claims, but Goop only made "limited changes to its marketing."
"Consumers should know that if they are looking to purchase Goop products to deal with medical issues they may be having, that they would be well-advised to consult with a medical health-care provider before they spend their good, hard-earned money on these products," Patten says.
Though Goop is often a source of mockery and speculation among scientists and journalists, TINA.org's letter is just the latest of this summer's very public Goop health controversies: In June, a NASA representative denied Goop's claim that the "conductive carbon material" it uses for its "Body Vibes" stickers—which purportedly re-balance a body's "energy frequency"—line the agency's spacesuits. That same month, while struggling to explain "earthing" during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Paltrow admitted to not knowing "what the fuck we talk about!"
But in July, Goop doubled down on some of its more controversial health claims, posting a strongly worded "Word From Our Doctors" that singled out San Francisco obstetrician and gynecologist Jennifer Gunter's blog, which frequently debunks and criticizes Goop health claims.
Can TINA.org's investigation persuade Goop to alter their marketing claims, or will it put the organization in defense mode again? Patten says she's "confident that Goop will make the necessary changes." Or: They "will be forced to make the changes."
The company's past response to a watchdog-organization investigation offers some hope: Last summer, Goop agreed to take down claims about its "Moon Juice" dietary supplements following an investigation by National Advertising Division at the Better Business Bureau. And TINA.org has had success with the two California regulators it reached out to in the Goop case before: The pair secured a $1 million settlement from the MyPillow pillow manufacturer after a TINA.org investigation last October.
Nevertheless, when asked if TINA.org will be keeping its eye on Goop moving forward, Patten responded, "absolutely."