The publishers of Belle Gibson’s The Whole Pantry have stated they never checked the validity of Gibson’s cancer claims as they did not see that it was “necessary”.
Social media entrepreneur Belle Gibson, developer of The Whole Pantry “health, wellness and lifestyle” app, is now the first to be accused of fabricating a miraculous recovery from metastasised cancer.
There are well publicised allegations that Gibson invented the story of her successful battle against malignant brain cancer using alternative therapies. No doubt Gibson’s personal story was a major hook in the publicity for her brand and helped to drive more than 300,000 sales of the app alone.
The questions raised both by those who have known Gibson and medical experts are beginning to taint the legitimacy of Gibson’s lucrative app and the cookbook she published in October last year.
Penguin, publishers of The Whole Pantry, have stated they did not check the validity of Gibson’s cancer account as they did not see that it was “necessary” given that the book is “a collection of recipes”.
The book does, however, contain a 3,000-word preface that is devoted to answering questions about Gibson’s cancer diagnosis and how she came to the decision to “heal herself” instead of continuing with the prescribed chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
In answer to the latter question, she contrasts her experience of vomiting after medical treatment with the approach she devised through reading articles on the internet and speaking to people. Her solution involved “nutrition, patience, determination and love – as well as salt, vitamin and Ayurvedic treatments, craniosacral therapy, oxygen therapy, colonics”.
Recipe books are proving to be far less benign subject matter than publishers might have imagined.
Also in the past week, the publication of celebrity chef Pete Evans’s paleo-inspired cookbook for infants, Bubba Yum Yum, has been delayed. The book includes recipes for bone broths that appear to be recommended as substitutes for breast milk or formula, and which doctors have warned might pose a risk to babies under six months old.
What is the responsibility of a major publishing house, then, to check the credentials and claims of its authors’ biographies? Or even the validity of particular health claims, such as alternative therapies for cancer or fad diets?