Misleading claims grab ASA's attention

Related tags Marketing Advertising

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a number of
complaints in recent weeks about supplements making misleading
marketing claims.

A Surrey-based firm NU Life Laboratories has agreed to withdraw a direct mailing that made unsubstantiated claims about its green tea-based slimming product.

The mailing contained a leaflet that claimed just four capsules per week of the product would result in loss of 'all your excess fat ... whilst still eating normally...'.

The advertisers said that the product contained green tea leaves, Paulinia cupana, apple cider vinegar extract and pineapple stem and that the medical profession recognised those ingredients as having weight loss properties. They also asserted that green tea had been the subject of many studies showing that it helped eliminate excess weight. However they sent no evidence to demonstrate the efficacy claims or to prove that the photographs were genuine.

A second product, containing the joint health supplement SAMe, widely marketed in the US, also concerned a direct mailing, which among other things, claimed that SAMe had been shown 'to be useful in the treatment of depression, fibromyalgia, and liver cirrhosis. Furthermore, recent reports reveal that SAMe may also be involved in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease and even ageing itself'.

The Authority found the company, which gave a Jersey address, to lack sufficient substantiation for its claims and also challenged the veracity of the testimonials.

Both advertisers have been asked to withdraw all advertising.

Research from Mintel shows that sales of dietary supplements in the UK, among the highest in Europe, have been slowing, from £360 million in 2001 to £350 million (€510m) in 2002, with sales stagnating at this level in 2003.

The fall in market value can be partly blamed on media coverage of the possible ineffectiveness of vitamins, or worse, possible side effects of taking excessive doses, suggests the report, and misleading marketing will certainly not help the industry's cause.

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