Consumer Protection Organizations
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
CSI is a is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization headquartered in Amherst, New York. It was founded in 1976 as the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and adopted its current name in 2007. CSI encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminates factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public. It also promotes science and scientific inquiry, critical thinking, science education, and the use of reason in examining important issues. To carry out its objectives, CSI:
- Maintains a network of people interested in critically examining paranormal, fringe science, and other claims, and in contributing to consumer education
- Prepares bibliographies of published materials that carefully examine such claims
- Encourages research by objective and impartial inquiry in areas where it is needed
- Convenes conferences and meetings
- Publishes articles that examine claims of the paranormal
CSI's official journal is The Skeptical Inquirer, whose 25-year index is now online. Associate membership, which includes a subscription to its newsletter Skeptical Briefs newsletter, costs $20 per year, $35 for two years, or $50 for three years.
ConsumerLab.com, LLC ("CL") is the leading provider of independent test results and information to help consumers and healthcare professionals evaluate dietary supplements and herbs. It publishes results of its tests at www.consumerlab.com, in its book ConsumerLab.com's Guide to Buying Vitamins & Supplements, and in special technical reports. As a certification company, CL enables companies of all sizes to have their products voluntarily tested for potential inclusion in its list of Approved Quality products and bear the CL Seal. In the past seven years, CL has tested more than 1,800 products, representing over 350 different brands.CL also operates PharmacyChecker, which provides information about pharmacies and compares drug prices. Both sites offer a considerable amount of free information, including a free email newsletter. ConsumerLab.com offers additional information to subscribers. PharmacyChecker offers memberships that include access to discount offers from participating mail-order and online pharmacies.
NCAHF is a private, nonprofit, voluntary health agency that focuses upon health misinformation, fraud, and quackery as public health problems. Its funding is derived primarily from membership dues and individual donations. NCAHF's officers and board members serve without compensation. NCAHF unites consumers with health professionals, educators, researchers, attorneys, and others who believe that everyone has a stake in the quality of the health marketplace. Membership is open to anyone who subscribes to NCAHF's basic principles.
The organization began in 1977 as the Southern California Council Against Health Fraud and became national in 1984. Its activities include a free weekly electronic newsletter (Consumer Health Digest), a moderated discussion list (healthfraud discusslist), a media clearinghouse, position papers, consumer complaint referral services, legislative action, and research on unproven methods of health care.
NCAHF also appoints task forces to conduct extensive investigations and issue position papers. Its task forces have been concerned with acupuncture, chiropractic, diet and behavior, dubious healthcare credentials, broadcast media abuse, dubious dental practices, vitamin abuse, ergogenic aids, herbs, questionable addiction treatments, medical neglect of children, cancer quackery, victim redress, and the quality of information in health periodicals. NCAHF's positions on consumer health issues are based upon the scientific principles that underlie consumer protection law. Required are:
- Adequate disclosure in labeling and other warranties to enable consumers to make proper choices
- Premarketing proof of safety and efficacy for products and services that are claimed to prevent, alleviate, or cure any disease or disorder
- Accountability for those who violate consumer laws.
This article was revised on April 29, 2007.