ASA clocks unauthorized claims in Nutritional Sciences Ltd ad

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

© Wasan Tita / GettyImages
© Wasan Tita / GettyImages

Related tags Asa Advertising Health claims

The Advertising Standard Agency (ASA) ruled that an advert for ‘Activ8 Joint Complete’ must be removed after making unauthorised health claims for bone and joint health.

London-based brand Nutritional Sciences Ltd published the ads on a news website on Jan.7 and Apr.6, 2024, but after the ASA received complaints about the claims made, it ruled the ads must not appear again in their current form. 

The advert

The advert was presented as an online advertorial with a main heading: “NHS arthritis expert reveals #1 ‘joint-destroying’ mistake Brits make every morning”.

It showed a photograph of someone sitting in a chair, accompanied by the text ‘Joint Doctor Begs Seniors To ‘Repair’ Joints With This Tip – Nutritional Science Ltd. – Sponsored’. The photograph contained a link to the advertiser’s website. 

Text underneath stated: “'Your joints can heal themselves at any age' – That’s according to Dr Paul O’Connell, the NHS’s leading joint expert […] Human cartilage can regrow, just like hair and nails. And this ‘self-healing’ mechanism can reverse YEARS of arthritis and joint damage”.

A link in the advertorial went to another page on the same website. The page featured a photograph of a man with the caption “Dr. Paul O’Connell - GP & Rehabilitation Engineer,” and a 20-minute video in which Dr O’Connell discussed the Activ8 Joint Complete supplement. 

The tab took readers to a survey and then a purchase page for the product. The text stated: “Relieves soreness, stiffness, and discomfort – Prevents inflammation, damaged cartilage, and bone decay – Facilitates joint repair & recovery – Improves movement and flexibility”.

The ruling

The ASA considered that the claims “… greater flexibility, recovery and range of motion” and “supports healthy cartilage”, made in the video implied a relationship between the Activ8 Joint Complete supplement and the health of joints and cartilage, and in some contexts would be specific health claims for the purposes of the Code.

As explained by ASA in the ruling, Nutritional Sciences therefore needed to show that the claims were authorised on the GB NHC Register and that they met the conditions of use associated with the claims.

There was also lacking evidence or response from Nutritional Sciences to support that Dr Paul O’Connell was a medical professional.

The ASA ruled the advert be removed under three counts; first for misleading claims, in that the claim that Paul O’Connell was the NHS's leading joint expert lacked evidence, and Nutritional Sciences Ltd did not provide proof that he was registered as a medical doctor.

Secondly, it was ruled that the ad violated the regulation, as even if the evidence had been provided, the CAP Code prohibits health claims in marketing communications for food supplements that reference individual health professionals.

Finally, it was ruled that the ads breached CAP Code rules on misleading advertising, substantiation, and health claims related to food supplements.

Legal expert and MD at Hylobates Consulting Luca Bucchini, said: “The case seems very clear, and it seems to me that the company needs to change tack completely.

 “Actors are used in advertising, of course, while impersonating a specific individual, with a name and identity, unless it's clearly fictional, is not permitted in the UK or in the EU even for advertising purposes.” 

Explaining what legal powers the ASA has, Bucchini said: “The ASA has an agreement with a body with legal powers​, in the UK, the National Trading Standards, to provide a legal backstop. 

“The ASA can make a referral to Trading Standards in the case where advertisers do not cooperate and Trading Standards, after a legal review, may more forcefully require implementation or even consider prosecution.”

Nutraingredients has reached out to Nutritional Sciences for comment and is awaiting a response. 

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