Gonged ... Homeopathy Plus was pulled up for claims surrounding homeopathy and whooping cough. Photo: John McNamara
FOR more than 30 years they have regularly scrutinised vitamin supplements, questioned crop circles, tested telepathy and challenged crystal power.
But this year the standout winner of the Australian Skeptics' Bent Spoon award for ''the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle'' went to Fran Sheffield from Homeopathy Plus.
The NSW organisation, which promotes natural remedies for treatment of a variety of ailments and conditions, was gonged for claims made surrounding homeopathy and whooping cough.
On the Homeopathy Plus website, it advises readers to ''hot-foot it to your local homeopath if you are struggling with whooping cough'' after making claims that the vaccine is ineffective against a new strain of the highly contagious bacterial disease.
''The ACCC investigated them and found that that is not just wrong but that the claims are a gross misrepresentation,'' said the Australian Skeptics executive officer, Tim Mendham.
Last week, the Australian Academy of Science released a booklet aimed at dispelling the myths about the dangers of vaccination and at reversing the falling trend of childhood vaccinations in Australia.
About one in 12 Australian babies is not fully immunised.
Mr Mendham welcomed the release of the booklet, written by the nation's top immunologists, to counter the anti-vaccination lobby.
''Things like UFOs are pretty harmless but when you get to the anti-vaccination groups, you are talking about people's lives,'' he said.
Fairfax Media did not get a response from Fran Sheffield or Homeopathy Plus.