CBC's supplement smackdown fails the test

CBC's supplement smackdown fails the test

In November, the CBC reported on products failing to meet label claims, based on testing it commissioned. On Thursday, the news outlet reported the tests were wrong and the products were genuine. But will anybody else in the media report on the retraction when they are so busy echoing “Frontline” supplement hit piece?

It’s been a particularly bad week for supplements in the media. On Tuesday, PBS’s “Frontline” documentary series aired an arguably one-sided report on supplements, and several media outlets echoed the program with their own headlines like “Dietary Supplements: A $37 billion-a-year scam” and “Some dietary supplements may be dangerous to your health.”

That’s why it’s refreshing--even surprising--to see a news organization issue a retraction on a story that went negative on a story. In November, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s "Marketplace" program aired a report that cited lab tests that showed Emergen-C didn’t live up to label claims for vitamin C, and that a pair of products, GNC Lean Shake 25 and Cytosport Muscle Milk, didn’t contain the promised protein.

On Thursday, CBC retracted those test results, pointing to unexplained lab errors and follow-up testing indicating the products actually did contain the ingredients claimed.

Journalism can be a deadline pressure business, but this was not a quick-hit story. Marketplace had time to send out for testing, receive the results and interpret them. That can’t be explained with “mistakes were made in the rush to get the piece on the air.”

The program promises a “full behind the scenes investigation on this story” tonight. It will be nice to see if they are completely candid. But will any of the publications and programs so quick to echo the Frontline hit piece take the time to report on this media misstep?

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