UK supplements maker rapped for misleading adverts

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Prostate cancer Cancer Obesity

A UK company has been told to remove UK press adverts that implied
it was a medical institution when it is merely a supplements

The Nutrition and Health Institute (NHI) ads alerted consumers to a "free trial" involving anti-prostate cancer food supplements which the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a voluntary yet influential UK media watchdog, ruled was deceptive.

NHI is a five-year-old UK-based start-up.

"The ASA acknowledged that NHI's name was included in the ad but considered that, with no further clarification, it gave the impression of being a medical or nutritional organisation and not a commercial company offering free samples," ASA wrote in its adjudication.

It said the pairing of the headline claim in combination with the suggestion that readers would be taking part in some kind of national trial was unclear and therefore misleading.

ASA stated it was, "likely to be understood by readers to mean that, if they responded to the ad, they would be taking part in a national medical or clinical trial for the purpose of evaluating the food supplement, not that they were simply being offered a free sample."

Medical claims ASA also took umbrage with NIH's claim that its supplements could help prevent prostate cancer when consumed as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

"Although NHI quoted a number of research reports on the effect of diet and lifestyle in the prevention of prostate cancer, we were concerned that, by giving the impression that the supplement could be taken to prevent disease, the ad made unauthorised medicinal claims," ASA said.

It backed this by noting the ads could dissuade readers from seeking medical assistance for a prolonged medical condition and for this reason, it breached its code regarding medical claims.

NHI's claim that "Every hour one man dies of PROSTATE CANCER" was upheld with ASA noting about 10,000 UK men died from prostate cancer each year according to 2005 statistics.

However another claim in the advertising that one man in three with an enlarged prostate will get prostate cancer was considered exaggerated given available data and so deemed misleading.

Free (not)

The "free offer" was also criticised as consumers were charged £5 for each order.

Even though this including shipping costs, ASA found the fact NHI was also charging for packing, handling or administration meant the offer was not free and therefore also misleading.

In summary ASA stated: " We considered that the references to a serious medical condition, the statistics of fatalities and chances of developing prostate cancer and references to symptoms of the disease, which could also be associated with non-cancerous BPH

[enlarged prostate], together with readers expectations that the supplements might prevent prostate cancer played on readers fears and anxieties.

We concluded that the ad breached the Code on this point."

NHI said the ad had been withdrawn and it would not be repeating its free prostate supplements offer.

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