Dumb ethics. Just because it may appear ethical, doesn’t mean it is.

There’s a lot of products out there that are a lot less ethical than they may seem, from food and drink to pharmaceuticals. So is it ethical or unethical to sell dumb or misinformed consumers something that is useless or worse, not good for them, because they believe it’s more ethical?


Take fluoride free toothpaste, it’s a classic ’dumb ethics product. My dentists told me that the owner of a local health food shop sells fluoride free toothpaste, despite the fact dentists do not recommend it, some even scorn it. Ironically she won’t use it herself but buys a well known big brand with fluoride in.

Bottled water is the classic dumb ethical product of all time. The misguided health beliefs consumers have in bottled water is shocking, whereas their actually knowledge is non existent. I have worked on several brands, one of which had so much sodium in it it was bad for your blood pressure. It’s also well know that many contain impurities, bacteria and even chemicals. And despite the fact that you should never give it to babies, there’s a group of yummy mummies who do – misbelief over common sense.

But as long as people pay more for water than petrol, who can blame brands for selling it. As they say, “A fool is easily parted from their money.”

The ultimate award for dumb ethics must go to the defense contractor who brags that their bombs now contain less lead to improve their environmental  impact. Wow, good to know that after you’ve blown a Middle Eastern village to dust that you’ll get an environmental certificate.

As we get more obsessed as a nation with health and obesity, we have seen hundreds of new products appear on the shelf selling us all sorts of natural ethical alternatives to pharmaceutical companies.

Just look at the number of magical natural sliming aids, from herbal remedies to fat magnets. Or diets. If any of them actually worked we’d all be on them.

Talking to a manager of a health food shop that sells medicines, she believes that many of these alternative products work not because they contain ingredients that scientifically cure illness (it’s doubtful in some cases) but because people who have such a strong belief system in alternative medicines are vulnerable to the placebo effect. She recommended I went to Boots.

One of the dangers of perceived ethical alternatives is when health is put at risk.

A neighbor of mine was getting into hand healing. When her daughter collapsed on her doorstep one evening from a kidney infection I had a hell of a battle to get her to agree to send for an ambulance. “Don’t worry”, she calmly said, “I’ll take her indoors and after half an hour of laying on of hands  she’ll be ok.” That half an hour could have cost her her life, thank god I was insistent she went to hospital.

But as people search out alternative foods, drinks and medicines, many trying to avoid buying from those big corporate organisations they feel are unethical, they just make themselves vulnerable to unethical companies selling them useless or even harmful garbage.

A quick glance at the drink sector reveals a large quantity of healthy drinks, many with a lot of sugar in. Others using gimmicky ingredients to imply energy, health and even improved brain power – something some of their customers could do with more of!