“This is a particularly insidious practice,” said the AGCM in a statement. “It disorients the consumer, preventing them from making informed decisions of information promoting certain goods and/or services. The case is all the more serious as it relates to health issues.”
The fine is based on the firm’s actions to sell and promote food supplements through its website Life120.it in which the Authority said had used ‘misleading information’ in describing the products’ characteristics.
The AGCM added that these supplements were presented as a method to gain beneficial or even curative effects against serious illnesses such as Alzheimer's – all asserted without any scientific basis.
For this practice, the Authority imposed a fine of €150,000 on the Life 120 Italia Srls Company, which made available these supplements.
The Search for Health
More serious were the claims that Life120 made in the television program ‘Il Cerca Salute,’ (The Search for Health) that featured stories of people cured from Alzheimer's, impotence and depression by following the Life 120 diet.
The commercial practice of concern centred on the “non-transparent ways of promoting supplements.” While the program featured informative content, the AGCM believed this concealed promotional purposes with the intent of highlighting other Life120 products.
“The promotional purpose of this transmission was concealed through a format in which Adriano Panzironi said could prevent and treat a wide range of diseases via a lifestyle and a diet that includes a significant use of food supplements,” ruled the AGCM.
“The practices are described in a book, ‘Living 120 years,’ of which the journalist is the author and on occasion promoted on the programme.”
Who are Life120?
For this practice, the Authority imposed sanctions totalling €426,000 on those involved, which included Life 120 Italia Srls, Welcome Time Elevator Srl, Adriano Panzironi and local broadcasters.
Along with his twin brother Roberto, Adriano Panzironi are the founders of Life 120, a movement that advocates the elimination of carbohydrates in order to achieve optimum health and live as long as 120 years of age.
The accompanying book, suggests the advent of cereals (including rice), sugar and other agricultural produce like potatoes and legumes (starches), have played a significant role in population health and therefore must be eliminated from the diet.
Going against scientifically accepted views, the foods mentioned means avoidance of the Mediterranean diet, a regimen that emphasises pulses, starches, pasta, bread, corn and legumes.
Panzironi’s method also suggests that diseases can be treated with spices such as turmeric, ginger, cloves and black pepper of which are found in the nine types of supplements produced by the Panzironi brothers.
According to Linkiesta.it, an independent Italian digital newspaper, the brothers sell these US-produced supplements through one of their companies. Followers of the diet added they had taken around 46 tablets a day with the monthly cost for supplements alone reaching €150 for one person.
In his defence…
Panzironi did not respond to our requests for comment on the AGCM’s actions. However, a statement posted on his Facebook profile dated 3rd October confirmed the Authority had visited the offices of TV station Canale 61 to carry out the necessary checks.
“The AGCM proceeding on the ‘The Search for Health’ program ended and we were sanctioned with a total fine of €460,000,” the post read (translated from Italian).
“I think this is self-commenting, since once again we have to defend ourselves against a system that does everything to stop us.
“Obviously we will oppose and with me all the broadcasters that have been fined. Do not bother with all the formal and substantial errors of this accusation….for those who know my work, it has no foundation.
“Now it's up to us to make the next move, and I assure you that if there is a justice in Italy, the AGCM will be ridiculed in court. I made a video response that will be broadcast on Lazio TV, but in a preview we uploaded it on our YouTube channel.”