Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness website, Goop, has grown substantially in recent years along with the general surge of health culture’s popularity. Paltrow started the venture back in 2008 as newsletters for food recipes, but upon the advice of a business savvy friend, she quickly expanded the content of those letters to a much wider variety of recommendations–from fashion to home goods to everything lifestyle-related that an average person who aspires to be Paltrow could purchase. A good portion of Goop’s content now consists of wellness tips and health product recommendations.

Goop has attracted intense criticism from licensed doctors and psychologists as it gained more popularity; its health-related advice and products can range from somewhat helpful to downright dangerous. Earlier this year, a woman died from trying to follow Goop’s recommendation of apitherapy–the practice of letting live bees sting the patient in an attempt to reduce inflammation.

As to the health products promoted on Goop, many of them have never been subject to any double-blind experiments, and their claims of health benefits are mostly unsupported by science. Despite the unknown health effects in the long-run, many consumers presumably bought these products, such as the infamous Moon Juice (different blends of herbs with proclaimed life-changing powers), because of Paltrow’s influence.

The public’s obsession with wellness, compounded by celebrities’ unqualified advice, has exposed the dark side of an industry that is largely unregulated. Products like the Moon Juice do not require FDA premarket approval, since they are not technically drugs, medical devices, food or cosmetics that normally fall under the FDA’s jurisdiction.

Currently, the main legal avenue for holding companies like Goop accountable is false advertising. Just recently, charged with false advertising for proclaimed benefits of vaginal jade eggs, Goop settled a lawsuit for $145,000. A division of the Council of Better Business Bureau started to investigate Goop’s promotion of Moon Juice for deceptive marketing, after which Goop stopped making the claim that Paltrow drank smoothies with Moon Juice every morning.

But prosecuting deceptive marketing alone might be an inadequate deterrent in light of the fast-growing wellness industry. Companies like Goop profit from controversy and they have the incentive to promote ineffective or even dangerous products for more online traffic and page views. In the era of digital misinformation, an amendment of the legal framework might be warranted to protect the unwary.

Bokang Liu

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