Aspire based the claim, which appeared on its UK website, on a health claim that was currently ‘on hold’ within the EU. But the ASA found Aspire’s slogan did not reflect the pending claim accurately, and could not be substantiated.
“The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Aspire Drinks Ltd not to make health claims for foods unless they were authorised on the EU Register, or properly reflected 'on hold' claims that could also be substantiated,” the ASA ruling said.
Aspire misses EGCG claim
The ASA said the health claim in question was for Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), or “green tea extract, rich in EGCG” and included the proposed wording “contributes to the reduction of body fat”.
But as Aspire’s claim made no mention of EGCG, the ASA said it did not have the same meaning as the health claim. It also noted that a company run by two of Aspire’s directors, Farenheit60, had also been subject to upheld complaints for a very similar claim in the past.
In a statement, Aspire said it was “disappointed” in the ASA’s ruling. It said 27 studies had been submitted to substantiate the EGCG claim, and that the CAP Code permitted the company to use the claim while it was on hold.
“It is important to note that the EFSA may yet decide differently and ‘authorise’ the claim, negating the ASA decision,” said Aspire in its statement.
Negative EFSA claim opinion
The ASA took a different view: “We understood the ‘on hold’ claim had received an EFSA negative opinion, which stated that a cause and effect relationship had not been established between the consumption of catechins (including EGCG) from green tea and contribution to the maintenance or achievement of a normal body weight.”
The authority also looked at the evidence provided by Aspire to back up its claim. Leaving aside the seven studies considered by EFSA, the ASA said it had “various concerns” about the evidence.
It noted a case study commissioned by Aspire looked only at short-term thermogenic effects, not long-term effects such as weight loss, and also suffered from a small sample size and poor methodology.
The study also used a product containing other ingredients, as well as EGCG – and so could not demonstrate the effects of EGCG alone.
The ASA also rejected several other studies on this basis.
Other papers looked at the antioxidant and cytotoxicity properties of green tea catechins including EGCG, but not the effect on body fat. And some used products with a different composition to Aspire’s drinks.
“Some of the papers were articles summarising evidence, or a research proposal, rather than critical systematic reviews or randomised controlled trials conducted on humans. One was a questionnaire study which relied on self-reporting, and was not blinded or controlled. One was a study conducted on rats, and another measured the effects of oolong tea (not green tea),” it added.
In the end, the ASA found only one study accurately measured the effects of EGCG alone.
“However, the sample size was small, the study measured the short-term effects on energy expenditure and fat oxidation (rather than fat reduction and weight loss) and the results were not conclusive.”
Brand changes ‘coincidental’
In its statement, Aspire said it had already taken the decision to redesign its packaging before the ruling, and was also in the process of redesigning its UK website, which will relaunch next week.
“The timing of changes to the Aspire brand, website and promotional assets is coincidental, and not as a subsequence of the ASA ruling,” said the statement.
Currently the Aspire UK website shows a ‘site offline’ message. The company’s other websites remain online.