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MPI to probe anti-vax ex-doctor’s chocolate business over sugar substitute


The back half of Jonie Girouard’s Kaiapoi weight-loss clinic doubles as a chocolate factory.

Stuff

The back half of Jonie Girouard’s Kaiapoi weight-loss clinic doubles as a chocolate factory.

The Ministry of Primary Industries will look into a North Canterbury chocolate business run by an anti-vaccine former doctor for using a sugar substitute not approved in New Zealand.

Kaiapoi GP and weight-loss clinic owner Jonie Girouard​​ was caught on camera giving out medical certificates as exemptions for the Pfizer vaccine in early December.

On Monday, the Medical Council of New Zealand confirmed she could no longer practise medicine in New Zealand after she requested her registration as a GP be removed from the Medical Council’s registry.

But the Girouard Centre, in Kaiapoi’s Silverstream subdivision, is not just a wellbeing and weight-loss business – it doubles as a chocolate factory.

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Jonie G’s Guilt Free Chocolate – a keto, vegan, and diabetes-friendly chocolate range sweetened with sugar substitute allulose​ – still appears to be in operation, and even had what looked like a new website set up on Monday.

But the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed Girouard’s use of allulose may not be legal.

The Girouard Centre was closed when reporters tried to visit on Monday.

Stuff

The Girouard Centre was closed when reporters tried to visit on Monday.

Food Safety deputy director-general Vince Arbuckle said any food business operating under the Food Act must ensure the food they manufacture is safe and suitable.

“This includes being compliant under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

“As allulose is not currently permitted for sale, New Zealand Food Safety will be working with the Waimakariri District Council [the local registration authority] to look into this food business to ensure compliance.”

Allulose is not technically banned, and the substance is permitted as a sugar substitute in some other countries.

But according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s (FSANZ) website, its safety has not yet been established, and more assessment is needed before it can be sold as a food product in Australia or New Zealand.

FSANZ has also been approached for comment.

Dr Jonie Girouard, pictured in February 2019 at the Silverstream Medical Centre.

John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff

Dr Jonie Girouard, pictured in February 2019 at the Silverstream Medical Centre.

Jonie G’s Guilt Free Chocolate was first registered with the New Zealand Companies Register in 2019, and the full product range was still in stock at several specialist online retailers as of Monday.

Girouard was filmed by Newshub last month offering an alternative option for people who were against receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.

An application by Girouard for an exemption to the mandatory vaccination order for health care workers was declined by the Ministry of Health.

Girouard’s activities prompted a police investigation, following a formal complaint by the New Zealand Medical Association, which is ongoing.

In New Zealand, only the Ministry of Health can grant medical exemptions relating to Covid-19 vaccinations. A doctor must first make an application, which is considered by the ministry’s exemption panel.

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Medical Council chairman Curtis Walker previously said the council took the issue of anti-vaccine activities “very seriously”.

Walker issued a statement on December 15 about the interim suspension of practising certificates of three doctors who promoted views about Covid-19 and the coronavirus vaccine.

It said: “The Medical Council takes these matters very seriously, and steps in as early as possible when a notification is made, or information comes to light, to put in place any necessary arrangements if it considers that the doctor poses a risk of harm to the public, or if an interim measure is appropriate pending an investigation.”

In late October, Stuff revealed anti-vaccine doctors were offering online vaccination exemptions for workers affected by the mandatory vaccine order, before the criteria had been finalised by the Ministry of Health.

Walker​ previously said the council was aware of the concerns raised about Girouard and had received a notification about her.



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