The posters, featuring a slim woman in a bikini, appeared on London's Tube network.
The organiser of the petition claimed the firm had manipulated feelings of physically inferiority in order to sell products and encouraged signatories to make a formal complaint to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The ASA told us it had received a total of 66 complaints so far and it was now “carefully assessing” the complaints to establish whether there were grounds for investigation.
“The general nature of the complaints is that the ad is offensive, irresponsible and harmful because it promotes an unhealthy body image,” a spokesperson said.
The hashtag ‘eachbodysready’ has been trending on Twitter with photos of various protest edits of the posters. Protein World’s own Twitter page has been flooded with statements of both support and complaint.
Critics have accused the brand of encouraging body issues and suggesting only those who fit the body type of the bronzed model were ready for the bikini season.
Supporters said the brand was about health and fitness, with one claiming Britain was a nation of “fat sympathisers”.
The issue comes the same week as UK police issued a warning on diet pills bought online after a 21-year-old woman died from pills said to contain the illegal toxic fat burner DNP. The tragedy rose questions about the lengths young women were willing to go to lose weight.
Its response to one Twitter user on the topic was criticised as flippant in its use of emoticons and encouragement of diet pills.
The weight loss collection advertised in the posters included three products. ‘Slender Blend’ contains whey protein Concentrate, its ‘thermogenic blend’, caffeine and multivitamins, equating to 150 Kcal and 31 g protein per 40g serving. Its Slender Blend Capsules, formerly called Fat Melters, are essentially high caffeine tablets with some herbals and alpha lipoic acid.
Earlier this month the ASA criticised the retailer and manufacturer for a whole host of slimming and cosmetic claims including an implied health claim made by the brand name Slender Blend.
Shortly after, the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) kicked Protein World out due to fears over what its membership would mean for the trade group’s credibility.
NutraIngredients understands that ESSNA had previously warned Protein World about its advertising and asked it more than once to ensure it complied with EU food law.
Protein World did not respond in time for the publication of this or the earlier articles.
The fall out shed light on other images used in the firm’s marketing.