Around 150 therapists who claim to “cure” autism have been served enforcement notices by the advertising watchdog amid warnings their methods have no scientific credibility and could severely harm children.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and claims that Cease (Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression) therapy could cure the condition were of serious concern and “have to stop”.
Cease therapy supposedly involves the removal of “toxic imprints” caused by vaccines, medications and some diseases.
Therapists recommend “treatment” in the form of nutritional supplements – commonly high dosages of vitamin C and zinc – along with dietary restrictions.
Writing on the ASA’s website, chief executive Guy Parker said the claims had no scientific credibility and ran contrary to NHS guidelines.
He warned that discouraging vaccinations for children could have potentially life altering or life-ending consequences.
He also warned that an overdose of vitamin C could result in diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal cramps.
Mr Parker said there were few barriers to becoming a Cease therapist, with some training courses only lasting three to five days, after which the therapists were “qualified” to provide “treatment”.
Last year, the ASA banned a claim that Cease therapy could “address” autism, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression and schizophrenia in adults and children.
The watchdog has now sent enforcement notices to approximately 150 Cease therapists still operating in the UK, warning that they would be targeted with further sanctions if necessary.
It has also referred several cases to Trading Standards for further investigation and any breaches of criminal legislation could lead to prosecution.
Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society's Centre for Autism, said: "Autism is lifelong. It's not a disease or an illness. And many autistic people feel that their autism is a core part of their identity.
"It is deeply offensive for anyone to claim that unproven and even harmful therapies and products can 'cure' autism - and particularly appalling where people target vulnerable families.
"We are really pleased that Advertising Standards Authority is taking action against the bogus claims by people peddling Cease therapy."