The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told UK start-up Works With Water to remove national newspaper advertising that stated: "LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE WITH OUR FREE SPRING WATER".
ASA said the advertisements breached Food Labelling Regulations because it made medicinal claims about a product that did not have a medicinal license.
“We noted Works With Water believed their product did not require a marketing authorisation because the active ingredients were relatively mild and it was not an alternative to medication,” ASA wrote.
“However, we understood from Lancashire Trading Standards department that a claim to lower blood pressure was considered to be medicinal under the Food Labelling Regulations 1996. We concluded that the ad made medicinal claims for an unauthorised product.”
The advert stated: "The first spring water developed especially to tackle the growing problem of high blood pressure ... 120/80, named after the optimum blood pressure level, is the first spring water in the UK to contain dairy peptides, which are derived from milk protein and clinically proven to be effective in the lowering and management of blood pressure.”
ASA said that while the product was not explicitly positing itself as an alternative to medication, the copy was misleading and should have read "help lower your blood pressure".
Works With Water agreed with this assessment and said the word “help” had been omitted from the advert’s text due to a printing error.
ASA noted numerous references to blood pressure lowering could mislead consumers into thinking the product could treat high blood pressure when this was not the case.
Works With Water said it had taken extreme care not to imply 120/80 could treat, prevent or cure disease or discourage essential treatment.
It had emphasised clinical research that demonstrated the blood pressure-lowering benefits of consuming 4g or more of dairy peptides per day and that 120/80 contained this recommended dosage.
Its website stated the product was designed to be used alongside other healthy lifestyle choices, and product packaging advised visiting a doctor high blood pressure was suspected.
It said its claims were in line with other products marketed with blood-pressure claims and that as far as it was aware, approval was not required by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), because a beverage was not classified as a drug and its ingredients were natural and administered at low levels.
The Daily Telegraph, the publication in which the advert appeared, pulled the advert on the day it appeared after being alerted to the breach and halted an ongoing promotion.
But ASA concluded the ad “could discourage readers from seeking essential medical treatment for a serious medical condition.”