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.”
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.”