Supplements maker rapped for false advertising

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Products Claims Advertising Health care Marketing Asa

A Jersey-based supplements company has been pulled up by the UK
advertising regulator for making health claims it could not
substantiate.

The Advertising Standards Authority, a voluntary body, found claims made for ten products in a Healthy for Life brochure were misleading and told it to remove or amend the offending material. The ASA told Healthy for Life to "ensure future marketing material did not feature products that were medicinal by function if those products did not have a marketing authorisation."​ The complaint was lodged by the UK Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA) which challenged whether the product claims were backed with supportive data. HFMA also challenged the brochure's implication that "supplements could be used to prevent or treat illness, elevate mood or enhance normal performance."​ The products included Caisse Plus and Beres Drops which claimed to combat various cancers; DHEA ("re-energise old people"​ among other claims) and Slim-Pep ("combating tiredness, reducing stress, cleansing and detoxifying and providing energy"​). Another product - Sedate - contained a herbal ingredient, kava kava, that has been banned in the UK since 2003, thereby exploiting a loophole that exists because Jersey along with Guernsey are bailiwicks that are not part of the UK and therefore not bound by its laws. HFMA recently took issue with another Channel Islands-based company, IntraMed Ltd, for making false claims about products being marketed in the UK, and which the Guernsey company has subsequently withdrawn. The ASA added its own concerns over the brochure to HFMA's, querying whether it:

  • discouraged essential treatment and offered treatment for serious medical conditions without the supervision of a doctor or other suitably qualified health professional;

  • made medicinal claims for unauthorised products;

  • suggested the products DHEA, Slim-Pep and Asthmex were safe or effective merely because they contained natural ingredients.

The ASA upheld HFMA's complaints but was concerned Healthy for Life had not responded to its communications and displayed an "apparent disregard for the (advertising) Code"."We reminded them of their obligations under the Code and told them to respond promptly in future,"​ ASA wrote in its ruling. It said claims made about all ten products "remained unsubstantiated and were likely to mislead.""In addition, we noted the claims for supplements referred to, for example, reversing diseases, alleviating health problems, increasing mobility and providing energy. We considered that the claims implied the supplements could be used to prevent or treat illness, elevate mood or enhance performance, which had not been demonstrated."​ It upheld its own concerns because Healthy For Life's marketing suggested its products could treat disease and therefore would put people off seeking essential treatment from health professionals. The advertising Code ASA follows also stated medicinal claims could not be made for unauthorised products, which these were not. "In addition, we understood that some products, Melatonin, SAMe, Kava Kava and DHEA, were acknowledged to be medicinal by function and must not, therefore, be marketed without a marketing authorisation,"​ ASA stated.

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