A Snake Oil Is But A Snake Oil

By Nakul Shenoy

A Quick Context:
The dubious claims of the Tri-Vortex Technology powered Tiranga Bangle was originally raised and spoken about here via Bangles or Snake Oil: What will you wear? and via two more news articles I wrote for Mid Day and Niti Central. Many more articles and updates on the topic are available at the Change.org petition we have been running at www.change.org/TriBangle to request the Member of Parliament Mr Naveen Jindal to desist from promoting this dubious “technology” without proper scientific testing and validation.

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Earlier today, we saw an official response from Mr Naveen Jindal on the Tri-Vortex powered Tiranga Bangle issue. He tweeted,

@MPNaveenJindal: Enough & more hs been said on this issue,making it much more than it needs to be. My final thoughts on Tiranga Bangle http://t.co/yOzk3VVP.

You can go over to Mr Naveen Jindal’s official blog to see his post “IN RESPONSE TO THE TRIVORTEX ISSUE“. I recommend that you go over and give it a full read.

Among the various thoughts expressed by Mr Jindal in his blog post, the following two paragraphs deal specifically to the issues we have been raising since January 26th:

The objections raised over the past few days are based on comments posted on a Blog published by a few individuals in South Africa. Neither the publisher nor the website represents any competent authority. Further, there are no tests/trials cited that negate the effectiveness of Trivortex.

A second source on the internet that has been referred to is a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa that had asked a distributor of the technology to withdraw its advertisement of a workshop. The ASA made no comment on the veracity of Trivortex itself.

Having been in contact with CAMcheck, the website that calls itself “a South African consumers’ guide to scams, pseudoscience and voodoo science” for a couple of weeks now, I directed their attention to this clarification issued by our esteemed Member of Parliament. 

And specifically, I directed their attention to the fact that Mr Naveen Jindal had alleged that “neither the publisher nor the website represents any competent authority” and his statement that “ASA made no comment on the veracity of Trivortex itself”.

Here then is the response to Mr Naveen Jindal, MP from Dr Harris Steinman of South Africa – the author and founder of CAMcheck, who per his bio on the website is a “medical doctor, consumer activist and author of a number of evidence-based allergen reference books”. (More on this later)

Response to Mr Naveen Jindal’s response to the Tri-Vortex issue:

It is in my opinion that a public representative is expected to uphold a higher standard in order to protect his or her constituency from scams, pseudoscience or other marketing gimmicks that may defraud or negatively impact on the health of a constituency that he or she represents.

It is therefore with dismay to read Mr Naveen Jindal’s response to the Tri-Vortex issue. I can appreciate that he may not have a scientific background in order to fully appreciate the nonsense of this product. However, it would have been imperative to consult with credible scientists who would have pointed out that the scientific process requires proof of effect, not the opposite – proof of no effect. Therefore Mr Jindal’s comment that “. . there are no tests/trials cited that negate the effectiveness of Trivortex” [1] is simply unacceptable. If one follows this fallacy of logic, then one can claim that sea sand cures AIDS/HIV for there are no tests/trials cited that negate the effectiveness of sea sand.

Furthermore, it is disingenuous for Mr Jindal to claim that “[T]he ASA made no comment on the veracity of Trivortex itself”. In fact, the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) stated categorically: “ . . submitted no substantiation as required by the Code, verifying the truthfulness of the claims.”[2] In plain language, the ASA asked Mr Anton Ungerer for proof and he was unable to supply any. Simple and straightforward.

Mr Jindal also tends to give more credence to Mr Anton Ungerer by referring to him as Dr Anton Ungerer. I am under the impression that he is not. Mr Jindal writes: “Dr Anton Ungerer has conducted extensive research on Tri-vortex technology over twenty years”. It is remarkable that “extensive research on Tri-vortex technology [has been conducted] over twenty years” yet there is not a single report in the scientific literature on this. The fact is that this is the brain child of Mr Ungerer and that his research has never been published, assessed or replicated by a single credible scientist.

Mr Jindal’s assertion that “Trivortex has been tested by scientists and results have been documented” is simply untruthful. For purposes of transparency and for respect for his constituency, I respectfully request that he publish the names of these scientists and the [implied scientific] documentation of the results: he will be unable to for these do not exist.

Mr Jindal tried the bangle on himself, family members and close friends and reported the product to be beneficial. This anecdote is no different to the support for the Power Balance bracelet which claimed to “resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body”, and increase sporting ability, an American scam that was discredited.[3]

Mr Jindal claims that “[T]he debate around alternate healing techniques is not new, many people swear by the usefulness of traditional, complementary and alternate healing techniques, while others reject them with equal vehemence”. One should not conflate a scam with well-recognised traditional, complementary or alternate healing techniques – Tri-Vortex is a modern “invention” by a singular personality with no proof of being entitled to these descriptors.

Dr Harris Steinman

[1] http://naveenjindalblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/in-response-to-the-trivortex-issue/
[2] http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=6098
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_Balance#Legal_issues

Dr Steinman (who until today afternoon I knew only as Harris!) has unfortunately left no points unsubstantiated or open for me to add on. 

Yet I can’t help but wonder on what grounds did our esteemed MP make his judgement that the website in question and its views did not represent “competent authority”. A quick Google search with the name “Dr Harris Steinman” quickly brings up results that are impressive to say the least. 

Now I do not know about Mr Jindal and the “scientific evidence” he refers to, but I would any day take the word of a medically qualified doctor and researcher actively associated with the the health and food committees of the United Nations and World Health Organisation that the said “Tri-Vortex Technology” is exactly what we fear it to be – a pseudoscientific fraud and scam.

My last word on this matter, is exactly what I said in one of my earlier articles:

It is in this bleak context that I implore on our two popular, well-meaning MPs to make an example and desist from promoting quackery and pseudoscience. If they are convinced from personal experience that what they have on offer is real, the least they can do is validate it through scientific lab tests.

After all, if the claims are indeed real and can cure everything from arthritis to cancer, we should make it available to every one in the country. A lab-based scientific study will help us do just that – separate snake oil from the truth.

On the other hand, if Mr Naveen Jindal chooses to promote a Tiranga bangle sans the fraudulent and dubious claims of the Tri-Vortex, I would happily buy a dozen of them.

Jai Hind.

Nakul Shenoy

Note: This article was first posted here on February 6, 2013.