ASA Adjudication on Healthy for Life
Healthy for Life
P.O. Box 216
10 September 2008
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
A catalogue for health supplements from Healthy for Life included claims for the products Colloidal Silver, Green Tea and Probio Plus.
The Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA) challenged whether the following claims were misleading, could be substantiated, and whether they implied the supplements could prevent or treat illnesses:
1. "Colloidal Silver: Effective Against 650+ Diseases & Viruses including MRSA and The Bird Flu ... Jim Powell reported in a Science Digest article (1978), that an antibiotic kills perhaps 7 different disease organisms, but Silver kills some 650. Silver is unique among antimicrobial agents in its broad spectrum of action - it effectively kills germs of all major types: including gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, spore-forming bacteria, fungus/yeasts viruses (including MSRA and Bird Flu) and protozoal parasites ...";
2. "Green Tea - Anti-Cancer, Weight Loss, Cartilage Protector & Great Health Green tea contains high concentrations of antioxidant catechins, which have a wide range of protective effects, including cardio-protective, cancer- protective, anti-microbial properties, as well as weight loss abilities, combating lipid peroxidation within cell membranes lining arterial walls and reducing formation of atherosclerotic plaque, not to mention Alzheimer's disease and diabetes prevention ..."; and
3. "Probiotics - The New Cancer Fighter ... A study of people who had been treated for colon cancers or had intestinal polyps removed showed that taking probiotics along with prebiotics, significantly decreased their cancer risk. In addition those who took the pro and prebiotics has [sic] less damage to their cells DNA, a problem that otherwise increases our cancer risk ...".
The ASA challenged whether the catalogue:
4. made medicinal claims for unlicensed products; and
5. discouraged recipients from seeking proper medical treatment for serious medical conditions.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Healthy for Life did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Healthy for Life's lack of response and, having failed to respond to our enquiries on several occasions, their apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code clause 2.6 (Non-response). We reminded them of their obligations under the Code and told them to respond promptly in future.
1. - 3. Upheld
We agreed with the complainant that the claims for Colloidal Silver, Green Tea and Probiotics, for example, "Effective Against ... Diseases & Viruses including MRSA and The Bird Flu", "Anti-Cancer" and "The New Cancer Fighter", suggested that those products were able to prevent or treat illnesses. We noted the CAP Code stipulated that claims for any vitamin or mineral product or other food supplement to be beneficial to health should be backed by scientific evidence and that claims for supplements should not imply they could be used to prevent or treat illness. In addition, all claims must be supported by documentary evidence.
From our knowledge of dealing with similar investigations, we considered that it was unlikely that the claims could be substantiated. A robust body of evidence was required to support all breakthrough claims and, in the absence of any evidence to demonstrate their validity in this instance, we concluded that they remained unsubstantiated and were likely to mislead.
On points 1-3, the catalogue breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 50.1 (Health and beauty products and therapies - general), 50.20 and 50.21 (Health and beauty products and therapies - vitamins, minerals and other food supplements).
We noted the catalogue included claims for the products to prevent successfully serious illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and cancer and considered that, as such, the claims were medicinal. We noted the CAP Code stated that medicinal claims should not be made for unauthorised products. As we had not seen any evidence to demonstrate that any of the products in the catalogue had a valid marketing authorisation we concluded that the claims should not have been made.
On this point, the catalogue breached CAP Code clause 50.11 (Health and beauty products and therapies - medicines).
We noted the catalogue referred to serious medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes. We referred to the CAP Code, which stated that marketers should not discourage essential treatment or offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for serious or prolonged conditions unless it was conducted under the supervision of a doctor or other suitably qualified health professional. We understood that the supplements could be ordered from the catalogue and be taken at home without supervision. We noted, therefore, although the brochure referred to the treatment or alleviation of serious medical conditions, Healthy for Life had sent no evidence to show that treatment was conducted under suitably qualified medical supervision; we doubted that that would be the case. We were also concerned that, by referring to the products' ability to treat or alleviate serious medical conditions, the catalogue could discourage essential treatment.
On this point, the catalogue breached CAP Code clause 50.3 (Health and beauty products and therapies - general).
The catalogue must not appear again in its current form. We reminded Healthy for Life again that they should ensure that future marketing material did not make medicinal claims for products that did not have a marketing authorisation. They should also not make efficacy claims for any products unless they held documentary evidence to support them. We reminded them that future marketing material should not refer to serious or prolonged medical conditions nor suggest that supplements could prevent or treat illness. We told them to contact the CAP Copy Advice team before advertising again.
We asked CAP to advise its members of the problem with Healthy for Life.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)