ASA Non-broadcast Adjudication: Dairy Crest Ltd
Dairy Crest Ltd t/a
Little Worth Road
21 June 2006
Food and drink
London (x2), West Yorkshire
Equazen UK Ltd (Equazen) and two members of the public objected to two ads for St. Ivel "advance" milk.
a. The first ad showed a photo of Professor Lord Robert Winston holding a bottle of the product; a label that stated "Clever milk" hung around the bottle-neck. Text at the foot of the photo stated "How to give your kids more Omega 3, without them noticing. Experts in children's development believe more Omega 3 may enhance a child's concentration and learning. The problem is that Omega 3 comes primarily from oily fish and it doesn't take an expert to tell you that not all kids love oily fish. New St. Ivel advance contains the most effective types of Omega 3, EPA & DHA. Just two glasses of St. Ivel advance contain 50% of the RDI of long chain Omega 3, (that's nine times more than organic whole milk). But here's the clever bit - it tastes just as delicious as ordinary fresh milk. Now that's clever milk!".
b. The second ad was headlined "Help unlock their potential" and showed a photo of Professor Lord Robert Winston holding a bottle and glass of St Ivel "advance". A quote from Professor Winston stated "Recent scientific studies suggest Omega 3 may play an important role enhancing learning and concentration in some children". The quote continued "Children of today do not appear to have enough Omega 3 in their diet. The challenge is how to increase the amount of Omega 3 in its most usable form by the body. The largest source of this nutrient is oily fish and, as many mums have found, this food is not popular with children. What has been lacking is an easier way for families to get more Omega 3 in a more user-friendly format". Text in the body copy stated "New St Ivel advance is fresh milk enriched with Omega 3, (EPA and DHA - the forms most readily used by the body). Here is the easy way to ensure you and your family receive the benefits of Omega 3 while enjoying the delicious taste and goodness of fresh milk. St Ivel advance is available either as whole or semi skimmed milk with Omega 3 ... A newly published research study* provides evidence that increasing intake of Omega 3 improves concentration and learning in some children. Reading ages also improved significantly." The asterisk referred to smallprint that stated "Source: Richardson, A.J., Montgomery, P (2005) Paediatrics 115 (5)". A boxed illustration showed two glasses of "advance" as though in an equation that implied two glasses of St Ivel advance fresh whole milk with Omega 3 was equal to "50% Omega 3 RDI*", where "1 glass = 250ml". The asterisk was linked to smallprint that stated "*Recommended Daily Intake Source: Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition 2004".
The complainants challenged whether more Omega 3, and therefore St. Ivel "advance", enhanced children's concentration and learning.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
St Ivel said it had not been their intention to mislead and the claim was based on experts' opinion taken from a number of studies. They believed there was considerable evidence to show that children's concentration and learning was enhanced by additional intake of Omega 3. They pointed out, however, that this would not be the case for every child and believed that was made clear through the use of 'may': they did not intend to make a blanket and definitive claim relating to all children. They said they consulted a number of leading experts who endorsed the claim "more Omega 3 may enhance some children's concentration and learning" based on their view and on available scientific evidence. They submitted statements from those experts in support of the possible benefits of supplementation with Omega 3 to enhance some children's performance.
St Ivel said they had used a number of scientific studies as the basis for the claim. They said one of the most prominent was a recent study called "PEDIATRICS The Oxford-Durham Study: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Dietary Supplementation With Fatty Acids in Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder", where supplements of Omega 3 fatty acids were given to school children to investigate the relationship between fatty acids and learning. They submitted the study and argued that it showed those children who took Omega 3 supplements improved in reading, spelling and behaviour within three months. They submitted details of further trials, one of which showed the effects of Omega 3 supplementation on symptoms related to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) in children with specific learning difficulties. The report showed an improvement in cognitive problems and general behaviour after three months' supplementation. Other trials showed the cognitive benefits in younger children when either mothers, infants or both received supplementation. They argued that all of this evidence showed Omega 3 played an important role in cognitive function and that more Omega 3 might enhance some children's concentration and learning.
The ASA noted the trial, "The Oxford-Durham Study", showed that children who were identified as having symptoms of developmental cooordination disorder (DCD), who were supplemented with a compound of Omega 3, Omega 6 and anti-oxidants, showed improvements in reading, spelling and behaviour within three months. We also noted the compound used in the study contained a daily dose of Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA of 558 mg and 174 mg respectively plus 60 mg of the Omega 6 fatty acid y-linoleic acid and 9.6 mg of vitamin E. We noted, although the findings of the trial reported that "fatty acid supplements of this type may be a safe, tolerable, effective treatment for improving academic progress and behaviour among children with DCD", the level of Omega 3 used in the trial was different from that in two glasses of St Ivel advance (which St Ivel used to represent half of the recommended daily intake of Omega 3 according to one source) and the supplement used in the trial contained other ingredients that were not present in St Ivel advance. Similarly, we noted other trials submitted in support of the claim, although they showed general, positive results, used compounds of a significantly different composition, in terms of the concentration of the relevant constituents, from the St Ivel advance formula. We concluded that, because the concentrations of Omega 3 used in the trials were not the same as those in advance and because the supplement used in the Oxford-Durham trial contained extra ingredients not found in advance, we had not seen evidence to prove that the amount of Omega 3 in advance milk was likely to have the same effect as the supplement used in the trials.
We also noted the trials concentrated mainly on children with specific learning or behavioural problems. We noted St Ivel had used conditional language to present the claim and understood that they did not intend to imply the intake of more Omega 3 would benefit all children. We considered, however, that the overall impression of the ads, including experts' endorsement of the claim and reference to scientific studies in support of Omega 3, was that the presence of Omega 3 in St Ivel advance might enhance children's concentration and learning. Although we acknowledged that the evidence submitted showed the supplements used in those trials reflected a generally positive result for children with certain learning or behavioural problems, we considered that it did not show that Omega 3 fatty acids at the concentrations in St Ivel advance had a positive effect on learning and concentration for children in general. We noted the generally positive opinions of the experts whose comments formed part of St Ivel's argument, but considered that claims relating to Omega 3, in isolation, in relation to children's concentration and learning, in general, had not been established. We advised St Ivel not to re-use the claim until they had definitive evidence to support it.
The ads breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 and 3.2 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 50.1 (Health & beauty products and therapies - general), 50.20 and 50.21 (Health & beauty products and therapies - vitamins, minerals and other food supplements).