One of the ads, which appeared on Facebook, referred to the 500 milligram (mg) of vitamin C contained in the firm’s powder sachets that stated, “vitamin C has been proven to boost immunity by many global studies….It is now being tested in the USA and China as a possible cure for Covid-19.”
Another ad that appeared on Instagram stated, “Today we have officially past [sic] 500 independent verified reviews on Amazon … Here is one of the latest reviews from a customer in UK … #immunity #immunityboost #vitaminc … #staysafe”.
The image also included a five-star review which stated “Great! After developing symptoms of a sore throat & headache I got paranoid. I ordered this concentration of Vit C and took one stick. In about half an hour I felt instantly revived and my headache disappeared, and sore throat was greatly reduced. Since taking I have had no symptoms. I highly recommend … 30 March 2020”.
ASA instructed Revival Drinks Ltd t/a Revival Shots not to feature ads in this form again and to ensure their ads did not state or imply that their food product could prevent, treat or cure human disease, including COVID-19.
“We also told them to ensure that any health claims made in their advertising were authorised on the Register, met the conditions of use for the authorised claims, and properly communicated the meaning of the authorised claim.”
Fast tracked response
ASA’s decision is part of an investigation that was fast-tracked to prioritise and tackle ads exploiting health related anxieties during the crisis.
Earlier this month, the Authority used this approach to instruct a probiotics firm and aesthetic clinic to revise claims made on its ads that the watchdog said exploits health related anxieties during the current crisis.
In its ruling, ASA ordered gut health company ‘Chuckling Goat’ to ensure future ads did not state or imply that their food products could prevent, treat or cure human disease.
Also incurring the wrath of ASA were Manchester-based ‘PCK SKIN’ trading as ‘SkinSpaceUK.’ The clinic found itself in hot water over a promotional email that had the subject line “40% off! In the fight against viruses!"
Further details of ASA’s decision concerning Revival Drinks reveals that the CAP Code defined the ads’ statements and hashtags as health claims since they were linking a food or nutrient’s relevant to immunity or ability to ‘boost’ immunity.
The EU Register of nutrition and health claims also includes the authorised health claims, which states vitamins C and D (and other vitamins) ‘contribute[d] to the normal function of the immune system’.
‘No evidence provided’
However, ASA says Revival Shots did not provide evidence to demonstrate their products contained any vitamin in amounts sufficient that they could use any of those authorised health claims in advertising for their products.
“Furthermore, we considered that the claim ‘#immunity’ did not properly communicate the meaning of those authorised health claims to consumers, and the claims ‘Boost immunity’ and ‘#immunityboost’ exaggerated the meaning of those authorised claims’ wording,” ASA states.
“Because the ads made specific health claims but we had not seen evidence that any of Revival Shots’ products met the conditions of use associated with a relevant authorised claim on the Register, and the advertising claims in any case did not properly communicate the meaning of relevant claims authorised on the Register, we concluded the ads breached the Code.”
In response, Revival Drinks said that the ads had been removed.