Who: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Premium Health Europe BC t/a Prima (Premium Health Europe) and an unknown person(s) trading as ‘Figur’ (Figur)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 19 April 2023
Law stated as at: 9 May 2023
In November and December 2022, two advertisements for ‘weight management’ food supplements were seen within a mobile application and on Figur company website. This included:
1) An in-app advert by Premium Health Europe and Figur. This was seen in the “Words with Friends” mobile application and included the text saying “LOSE 4 STONE IN 15 DAYS NO DIET & EXERCISE CLINICALLY TESTED 100% NATURAL NO SIDE EFFECTS“. This was accompanied by a side-by-side comparison of images depicting a model who appeared much slimmer on the right than she did on the left.
2) A website advert by Premium Health Europe and Figur on figure-capsules.co.uk. This included a series of claims about weight-loss food supplements. For example, the website listed the supplements’ ingredients and their supposed health benefits. Quotes picked out by the ASA included “lose weight while maintaining adequate health levels“, “loaded with powerful ingredients…specifically created to accelerate fat melt-down, as well as fat synthesis” and “Proven to be extremely effective and safe, this new dietary supplement can be of real help for people suffering from overweight“. The website also featured further claims in regards to the product, including “FIGUR…. Boost energy and vitality levels, improves sleep and enhances mood”.
Overall, both adverts breached the CAP Code and had to be removed. In doing so, the ASA considered the following issues:
- Claims that consuming a food could result in weight loss are health claims.
In this instance, the ASA looked at weight loss as a health claim, specifically in relation to rules 15.6 and 15.6.6. It was then held that the advert was specifying a health claim in relation to food with a specific rate (timeframe of 15 days) and amount of weight loss (four stone).
- Marketers need to ensure that their advertising is prepared with a sense of responsibility for consumers and society.
The ASA had concerns that the ad referred to a significant weight loss in a short timeframe, and that this was presented not only as aspirational but “almost immediately achievable”. Additional messages such as “NO DIET OR EXERCISE REQUIRED” and “100% CLINICALLY TESTED” also further contributed to the irresponsible messages that healthier eating/exercise and medical supervision were unnecessary for rapid weight loss.
- General health claims can only be made if they are accompanied by specific authorised health claims
Claims such as “L-Carnitine – accelerates the fat metabolism“, are not authorised claims and do not appear on the Great Britain nutrition and health claims register. This is therefore an unlawful claim and is not permitted. Furthermore, due to the absence of any specific authorised health claims, the general claims such as “helps detox plans” are therefore not permitted either.
- Foods should not claim to prevent, treat or cure human diseases
The ASA held that claims such as “enhances mood”, “less anxiety”, “relieves stress” and “calms hyperactivity” would be interpreted by consumers to mean that the food would help to improve low mood and treat anxiety, stress and hyperactivity all of which are medical conditions and therefore amount to medical claims. Medical claims are not permitted on food products.
Why this matters:
The ASA continues to take a strict approach in regards to the advertisement of foods and food supplements with health benefits. This ruling serves as a reminder to manufacturers that nutritional and health claims are strictly regulated and must only be used if the criteria under the Great Britain nutrition and health claims register are met. Medical claims are not permitted at all in relation to food. Furthermore, any manufacturer hoping to market products for consumers interested in weight loss should be mindful of the rules on weight loss claims and their wider obligation to avoid any irresponsible messages supporting or condoning dangerous weight loss practices.