Reputation and brand go together hand-in-hand – just ask vitamin company Swisse, whose founder says he was defamed by ABC show The Checkout.
The father of the founder of celebrity-endorsed vitamins company Swisse is suing ABC’s current affairs comedy program, The Checkout, saying he was defamed by a skit that poked fun over the company’s testing procedures.
In a writ filed with the Supreme Court of Victoria on April 26, Avni Sali, father of Swisse chief executive Radek Sali, says he was defamed by a skit on the show aired on March 21, claiming it inferred that he manipulated the test result of a Swisse appetite suppressant.
In the segment presenter Craig Reucassel, formerly of popular television program The Chaser, says Swisse’s product ‘‘highlights everything that’s wrong with the regulation of natural medicines in Australia’’. Reucassel, his Chaser colleague Julian Morrow, who also appears on and produces The Checkout, executive producer Nick Murray and ABC are named as defendants.
Dr Sali, who has a long association with Swinburne University and is a past president of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association and founder of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine, is seeking aggravated damages because the defendants were “recklessly indifferent to the truth of the program” and ABC did not seek comment or clarification from him prior to airing the segment. He is also seeking to have the clip removed from ABC’s website.
‘‘The program was meant and was understood to mean that the plaintiff performed clinical tests . . . and then manipulated the published results for the commercial benefit of Swisse,’’ Dr Sali alleges.
Former Swisse MD and current board member, Michael Saba, says the “baseless attacks on Sali are a case of tall poppy syndrome”. Read his statement here.
The episode heavily criticised Swisse’s Ultiboost Appetite Suppressant, which contains an extract from an Indian cactus.
Regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration cancelled the registration of the product after the episode went to air.
ABC’s Murray told Fairfax: “We deny all the ridiculous imputations and will be defending it vigorously”. It is yet to file a defence.