Don’t compare: UK watchdog cans ‘twice-as-fast’ electrolyte gel claims

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

ASA says comparitive claims require NHCR backing. Image: SiS
ASA says comparitive claims require NHCR backing. Image: SiS

Related tags: Nutrition

Comparing one sports nutrition product to another is not permitted unless a specific EU-approved health claim exists to back the comparison, the UK advertising watchdog has said.

In a republished ruling from late 2015 due to a misclassification error, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told UK supplements manufacturer Science in Sport (SiS) to cease claims its electrolyte gel worked twice as fast as other sports gels.

The ASA said SiS’s 'GO' maltodextrin-based, isotonic gels did not have a specific EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) approval to make such a claim, and so ruled it unusable under EU law.

It did not discuss the merit of the study, just noting no comparative energy nutrition claims existed in the NHCR and therefore the claim was not permitted.

SiS chief Stephen Moon told us his firm had canned the claim last year when the ruling first came in, but expressed his view that the regulation was not appropriate for comparative claims.

“I don't think that comparative claims should fall under the health claim regulations,”​ he said. “Look at categories like personal products, hair and skin care, they make survey claims on a regular basis. As long as the claim can be substantiated it should be allowed.”

The authority dismissed SiS research showing it was the only isotonic gel on-market and with it the firm’s claim it “works twice as fast as any other energy gel” ​in delivering energy to fatigued muscles.

Moon said SiS was considering entering a health claim submission to the EU, most likely under article 13.5 of the NHCR which affords applicants five years of protection for proprietary data.

“But it’s an expensive and long road, and we have to be clear whether there is a commercial benefit at the end of it.”

SiS makes a range of sports nutrition products including gels, bars and powders and operates in the UK, Europe, Asia and North America. 

SiS defence


"The osmolality of our solution affects the rate at which it empties from the stomach, and subsequent absorption in the small intestine, and that therefore influences how quickly energy becomes available to working muscles. A liquid or gel that has a tonicity of between 290 and 310 mmol/kg can be classified as an isotonic solution and the GO Isotonic Gel is the only Isotonic Gel on the market.

Other gels on the market use hypertonic or hypotonic formulae. Isotonic formulas are known to empty twice as fast as hypertonic formulas (Vist & Maughan 1995) and that was the reference point for our 'Twice As Fast' statement."

In the first half of this year ending June 30 its sales grew 24% to £6.48 million (€7.48m), up from £5.24m (€6.05m) in H1 2015.



A new NutraIngredients and European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) congress held in Frankfurt on November 28 the day before Health Ingredients Europe​ will place your business front and centre of the playing field be it in supplements, herbals, powders, mixes, drinks, bars or gels.

More information here​ ​.

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