UK blows whistle on sports supplement claims


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Protein World claim making has been deemed unauthorised under EU law & heavily censored by the ASA
Protein World claim making has been deemed unauthorised under EU law & heavily censored by the ASA

Related tags Health claim Meal replacement Protein world Nutrition

The UK advertising watchdog has muzzled meal replacement, muscle building, metabolism, L-carnitine, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and other claims being made by a UK based online manufacturer-retailer as it continues its claims crack down based on EU law.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told Protein World Ltd to amend the above claims and others like slimming and cosmeceutical claims – much of which the Surrey-registered business had complied with, although some remained seemingly in breach of the ruling today.

Unusually, while many ASA rulings are based on competitor or consumer complaints, this 9-point action was brought by a Northampton Trading Standards body – indicative of increased UK enforcement activity of the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).

Northampton Trading Standards challenged multi-faceted marketing on on nine accounts and all were upheld by the ASA.

Protein World was not available for comment at the time of publication.

Chris Whitehouse

One of the counts found the product name ‘Slender Blend’ was an unauthorised health claim, an interpretation of the law questioned by The Whitehouse Consultancy chair Chris Whitehouse. He said “product names which were on the market prior to 1st January 2005 may continue to be used until 19 January 2022. That point isn’t mentioned in the ruling.”

The ASA's Matt Wilson told us Protein World hadn't provided information about the brand name existing before 2005 and so it assumed "that the names are not pre-2005."

"If the product/brand name was trademarked, or they can prove it was in common use, before 2005, they don’t have to include an authorised health claim until 2022."

A UK Department of Health (DoH) 2011 position statement on the matter can be found here​ (question 37, page 60).

Return to Slender

Slender Blend was marketed as a meal replacement shake and made metabolism-based slimming and beauty claims and contained green tea extract, raspberry ketones and vitamins.

Protein World said it modified the claims and altered the formulation to replace raspberry ketones (most forms of which do not possess EU novel foods approval) with the natural stimulant, guarana.

The ASA accepted this but said its meal replacement claims were unjustified because the product was not shown to comply with what a meal replacement should be. It was not therefore authorised to use the approved EU claim that "Substituting two daily meals of an energy restricted diet with meal replacements contributes to weight loss".

The agency backed claim wording flexibility under the NHCR, but said a protein-based claim around lean and toned muscle was unauthorised as it exaggerated the NHCR-approved claim: 'Protein contributes to a growth in muscle mass'.

“Moreover, we considered consumers would understand the claim to relate to the effects of the product as a whole, rather than the protein contained in the product. We had also not seen how the product contained sufficient protein to meet the conditions of use associated with the claim.”

Beauty claims for the same product were deemed unauthorised.

Other claims


Claims for ‘Fat Melter capsules’, ‘Slender Blend’, ‘CLA powder’, ‘Aceytl L-Carnitine’, ‘Chlorella’ and ‘Lean Muscle’ were all curtailed by the ASA with Protein World acting on some if not all of its ruling already.

Of the ASA’s ongoing crackdown, Whitehouse warned, “Industry should be in no doubt that the enforcement authorities will be increasingly aggressively policing this all-encompassing legislation across the EU. All food companies would be well advised to ensure that their marketing materials are compliant.”

The full ASA ruling is here​.

Protein World joined the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Association (ESSNA) in 2014.

Weight loss, weight control

Owen Warnock

After publication UK based food law expert Owen Warnock, a partner at Eversheds, noted companies needed to be mindful of the fact that the NHCR applies to both weight loss and weight control claims.

"On that basis it’s not really a stretch in my view to say that ‘Slender Blend’ is an implied health claim. As it happens however, there was lots else claimed for the product which asserted very clearly weight loss properties."

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