Who: Revival Drinks Ltd t/a Revival Shots and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 27 May 2020
Law stated as at: 10 June 2020
Following a fast-tracked investigation into two complaints, the ASA banned a Facebook ad and two Instagram ads posted by Revival Shots, which is a company founded by a former contestant on the TV show The Apprentice.
On 12 April 2020, Revival Shots released a Facebook advert for its revival product, claiming that each sachet of the product contained 500mg of vitamin C and featuring the statement, “Vitamin C has been proven to boost immunity by many global studies… It is now being tested in the USA & China as a possible cure for COVID-19“.
On the same day, Revival Shots also posted two Instagram ads, one with the same content as above, and the second containing the hashtags “#immunity #immunityboost #vitaminc … #staysafe” and featuring a five-star review from a customer which included the text: “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.”
Claims that a product can prevent, treat or cure human disease
The ASA found the adverts in breach of rules 15.6 and 15.6.2 of the CAP Code, which prohibit claims stating or implying that a food (including food supplements and drinks) “prevents, treats or cures human disease“. By combining the product’s vitamin C content with the claim that it is being tested as a possible cure for Covid-19, the ASA found the first ad implied Revival Shots could help cure Covid-19. The second ad’s timing (mid-pandemic), reference to symptoms associated with Covid-19 and the reviewer’s “paranoia“, and the use of the hashtag #staysafe, all led the ASA to conclude it had claimed the product could cure Covid-19 or, at the very least, a headache and sore throat.
Nutrition and health claims
The ads were also held to breach CAP Code 15.1 and 15.1.1, which are aligned with Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims. These provide that marketing communications may only make nutrition or health claims if they are listed in the EU Register of nutrition and health claims. The CAP Code defines a health claim as one that “states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health“.
The references in both ads to the product or vitamin C boosting immunity were found to be a health claim. Whilst the EU Register includes an authorised health claim that vitamin C contributes “to the normal function of the immune system“, the ASA did not think Revival Shots’ ads conveyed the meaning of the authorised health claims to consumers, nor were they supported by evidence to show they met the claim’s conditions of use.
Why this matters:
The fact that the ASA expedited this investigation shows the regulator’s current focus on ensuring that advertisers do not exploit consumers’ concerns relating to Covid-19. Organisations should think carefully before referencing Covid-19 in promotional materials, and must ensure that they do not suggest their products can prevent, treat or cure disease, or infringe other CAP Code rules.
This ruling is also an important reminder that ads may only feature nutrition and health claims if they are authorised in the EU Register. When using authorised health claims, advertisers must ensure the claims are supported by “documentary evidence to show they meet the conditions of use” of the claim, and that they are presented without exaggeration, accurately communicating the meaning of the authorised claim.