ASA attacked over CAM health claim expertise

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

ASA attacked over CAM health claim expertise
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) does not have the scientific know-how to deliver health claim marketing verdicts in the botanicals area, according to a natural health lobby group.

The Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH-I) said Friday the ASA did not have the expertise to administer its new remit to monitor online marketing materials, and warned that the complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) sector could be in for a barrage of potentially damaging attention.

“ANH-Intl questions the competence of ASA adjudication panels to evaluate the type of scientific findings that are typically used to substantiate claims on food and health products,”​ the group said. “The ASA adjudication team appears not to include a single scientist.”

Appropriate data

Responding, ASA communications and policy manager, Lynsay Taffe, defended the advertising watchdog’s ability to rule on food health claims, or those in any other area.

“ANH –I should be assured that we look at the science behind any claims made,”​ she told NutraIngredients, noting the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) was the guiding document for assessment standards in food and supplement claims.

“Where appropriate, we consult with independent experts and scientists, including those at the UK Food Standards Agency and UK Department of Health, for example, to make sure that we are interpreting scientific and clinical studies correctly,”​ Taffe added.

“We do this across all sectors, including the food and nutrients sector, and have long assessed claims in this particular area in other forms of marketing.”

Claims scepticism, code awareness

The ANH-I is concerned that the new ASA powers will be utilised by CAM-sceptical groups like the Nightingale Collaboration​ in its stated aim to “challenge misleading claims”.

“We are deeply concerned that the ASA, in conjunction with anti-natural health and skeptic campaign organisations such as the Nightingale Collaboration, will go after perfectly responsible practitioners on the basis of a misunderstanding or misuse of scientific substantiation methods,”​ said Robert Verkerk PhD, executive and scientific director of ANH-I.

“It is important that practitioners are fully aware of what the requirements of the revised CAP code are and how they can minimise their exposure to those who seem intent to damage their ability to practice effectively.”


Taffe refuted the ANH-I’s claim that sir Hayden Phillips was not fit to act in a review capacity because he too was not a scientist.

“Sir Hayden Phillips is our Independent Reviewer – he is not the ‘independent experts’ that we refer to during the course of an open investigation,”​ she said. “He is called in when an advertiser challenges an ASA ruling and his findings are then sent back to the ASA Council at which point a ruling can be amended.”

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More silly government regulation

Posted by JohnB,

I'm sure that any individual with half a brain can evaluate whether a particular supplement or treatment using supplements is effective on the particular health issue that they have. Given the ASA opaque process all that this does is reduce competition as well as increase the costs to the companies doing business. There is a very easy way to provide consumers with protection against unsafe products. It's called liability law. As for companies making specious claims about their products, they will be found out any way due to the inefficacy of the products. It is just another waste of the public's money.

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what does this mean to the consumer?

Posted by Precious Williams,

What power will this body actually have? Specifically how will online retailers be affected? Will they be banned from advertising vitamin supplements or just banned from making certain claims?

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Is ASA going to accept EFSA madness?

Posted by Robert Verkerk,

The real issue is that the ASA seems happy to be content to rubber stamp the major problems associated with the EU's Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, a law the recently revised CAP code implies it will police. And the skeptics seem to think all their Christmas' have come at once with this one. The day's of Britain standing up to over-bearing laws emerging from Brussels seem to be long gone.

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