'Detox' off the menu at Wellcome café

I recently visited my favourite science hangout, the Wellcome Collection. After seeing the new exhibition and doing a light spot of Christmas shopping in the bookshop, I was in need of a drink. It was then that I spotted their fresh juices – all of which sounded very tasty. However, one was listed as “Detox – kale, celery & apple”.

The misuse of the term ‘detox’ irks me, especially when it occurs in a place intended to promote and celebrate scientific knowledge. The human body has evolved to get rid of unnecessary substances through your liver, kidneys, and colon. And kale, celery and apple juice isn’t going to improve the way your body works.  

Claims about detox support the myth that if you buy a product with a sciencey-sounding claim, you can make up for an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle, or purge yourself of supposedly toxic aspects of modern life. The vagueness of this – and the fact that most products labelled ‘detox’ do not make more specific claims mean it’s up to consumers’ imaginations to decide for themselves what it actually means. This is something I've investigated before with the Voice of Young Science network.

I asked the café for evidence using askforevidence.org. The representative of the café (run by contract company Benugo) replied quick to my ‘ask’ and told me “To be honest it did not occur to us that the name may convey that this drink had [detox] properties”. Perhaps this shows how widespread the practice of labelling products as ‘detox’ has become. The reply went on to admit that this was “…not a good enough excuse and just highlights the lack of thought we put into the process of naming the drink.” They confirmed they will be removing the ‘detox’ label from all of their promotional material.   

I was very pleased with the response and it goes to show how easy it is to make a change for the better simply by asking for evidence.

This is a guest post by Harriet Ball who asked for evidence when she spotted a range of ‘detox’ drinks

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