The ASA determined that the company's Instagram posts and Facebook ad, seen in February 2023, breached the advertising code, and Dirtea has committed to removing the ads and not using them again in the future.
The Instagram campaign consisted of five posts on the Dirtea Instagram page, each promoting different mushroom powders, along with a paid-for Facebook ad.
The first Instagram post featured a video testimonial from a woman endorsing reishi mushroom for anxiety relief and improved sleep.
Similarly, the second post highlighted lion's mane mushroom, suggesting its potential in repairing nerves and supporting conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The third post focused on cordyceps mushrooms, implying benefits in energy, endurance, hormone balance, and libido enhancement.
The fourth post claimed that Chaga mushrooms had remarkable effects on the skin, while the fifth post recommended reishi mushrooms for anxiety management.
The ASA ruled that the claims regarding anxiety, dementia, ADHD, Alzheimer's, hormonal issues, skin conditions, and flu defence, were likely to be interpreted as medical claims.
Kristy Coleman, partner at Greengage LLP, states: “When it comes to advertising online, brands should always start with an understanding of their legal obligations to the consumer, primarily, not to mislead, whether directly or through indirectly, for example, through omission.
The co-founders of Dirtea, brothers Andrew and Simon Salter, gave a joint statement to NutraIngredients: “We understand and acknowledge that a small minority of content did not comply with the relevant ASA guidelines, and we have now removed that content in accordance with the ruling.
“Going forward, we continue to ensure that all our communications adhere to all ASA guidelines.”
They further note that they are invested in the scientific backing of their products, telling NutraIngredients: “To date, the claims made in our advertising are based on scientific studies, customer feedback, and positive stories shared by the DIRTEA community.”
The company has assured compliance with the advertising code in future campaigns, pledging to refrain from making claims that imply their products can prevent, treat, or cure human diseases.
Adhering to the CAP code
Coleman explains: “The Advertising Standards Authority doesn’t make the law, it administers and endorses the Codes (BCap and CAP code) written by its sister association, the Committee of Advertising Practise (CAP).
“CAP is a self-regulatory body that creates, revises, and enforces the Codes. The Cap Codes supplement the law and fill gaps where the law does not extend to.
"The ASA’s role is to investigate and rule on complaints and conduct research. Together, they form part of the UK’s regulatory system of self-regulation and co-regulation.”
Coleman warns brands using social media that, unlike broadcast media, such as radio and TV, there is no pre-clearing of ads for social media.
“As a brand, you are responsible for making sure any ad or communication by your brand on social media is compliant with the law and the CAP Codes.”
She advises: “The CAP Codes are broken down into easy-to-read chapters and have some really useful guidance notes accompanying them. Food law is a very tricky area to navigate and care always needs to be taken to ensure compliance. If in doubt, always seek professional advice.”