In its ruling, ASA also orders the firm to ensure health benefits described in an authorised health claim are attributed to the nutrient, substance, food or food category.
Further warnings centre on any rewording of an authorised health claim, which Bounce Back Drinks are instructed not to exaggerate its meaning.
Responding to the advertorial’s claims it received approval by ASA and other public bodies, Bounce Back Drinks said it had “spoken with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) when developing the product’s formulation”.
The firm also said it had spoken to Food Standards Scotland (FSS) to “understand the requirements around nutrition and health claims made on foods, and to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) when developing their marketing message.”
Bounce Back added that they provided screenshots showing extracts of emails with those bodies.
Referencing authorised claims
In response to the claims in the ad that the product could help hangovers, the Glasgow-based firm pointed to guidelines outlined in the CAP Code that required that such claims were accompanied by an authorised specific health claim.
Here, they referenced authorised claims relating to choline, zinc and selenium, and vitamins B12, B1, B6 and C, which they believed could be used in relation to ingredients in their product.
In the advertorial, published in The Scotsman on 28 September and 3 October 2019, Bounce Back Drinks claimed to have launched the UK’s first After-Alcohol Revival Drink.
The product was described as a “refreshing tropical drink with a unique combination of amino acids, vitamins, minerals … specially selected to replenish nutrients and support liver function …”
“This claim was intended to refer to the authorised health claim “Choline supports normal liver function,” said the firm.
Bounce Back also provided lab analysis which they said showed the product contained a sufficient quantity of choline that the claim could be used.
Despite the firm’s objections, ASA upheld the ruling, arguing that they understood that Bounce Back had sought advice from CAP’s Copy Advice team in relation to a couple of specific claims,
However, the CAP Code stated that ads must not refer to advice received from CAP or imply endorsement by the ASA or CAP. ASA said the ad implied its endorsement and thus breached the Code.
Further consideration of the claims “The business is fully compliant with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) … regulations” and “Bounce Back is the only drink in the UK with an authorised health claim by the EFSA that it supports normal liver function” similarly implied that Bounce Back Drinks and/or its product had been reviewed and approved by EFSA.
“We understood that was not the case,” said ASA. “Because neither Bounce Back Drinks nor its product had been approved or endorsed by the MHRA or EFSA, the claims breached the Code.”
ASA also thought the claim "After-Alcohol Revival Drink” would be understood by consumers to mean that the product could help to prevent, treat or cure a hangover.
This was because it implied that the product could help to ‘revive’ people from the effects of alcohol consumption. They concluded that the claim breached the Code.
Finally, ASA understood the product to contain sufficient choline quantities for the advertiser to use the authorised health claim “Choline contributes to the maintenance of normal liver function” in its advertising for the product.
“We considered that consumers would understand from the claim “… a unique combination of amino acids, vitamins, minerals … specially selected to … support liver function” that it was the product formulation as a whole, rather than specifically the choline in it, that would provide the health benefit of supporting liver function.
“We considered that the wording “supports” would be understood by consumers as having the same meaning as “contributes to”, but we concluded that by removing the authorised wording “maintenance of normal …” the advertising claim had the effect of exaggerating the authorised claim, because it did not make clear that it related to the normal functioning of the body.”