Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
What is amber?
Amber is fossilized tree resin which some people believe contains a substance called succinic acid, which is given off as oil when the resin is warmed by the skin. Some people believe this oil acts medicinally to reduce joint pain, anxiety and headaches. To date, neither the ASA nor CAP has seen evidence to support claims for the health benefits of wearing amber necklaces or amber bracelets. Marketers of these products should not make health claims unless they hold robust clinical evidence (rule 12.1).
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confirmed that the products are not medical devices and would not be medicinal products because the transdermal effects of any remaining oils in the beads would not have a meaningful pharmacological effect.
What types of efficacy claims are likely to be problematic?
Because evidence has not been submitted to the ASA or CAP date, any claims about the health benefits of amber are likely to be problematic unless the marketer holds robust documentary evidence, most likely in the form of clinical trials.
In 2011 the ASA upheld a complaint about an ad due to lack of evidence. The ad stated “When amber is worn against the skin, naturally-exuded oils (succinate) are released by the wearer's warmth. These oils are proven anti-inflammatory pain-relievers, can protect against fever and calm breathing. They're especially effective for teething children as they prevent symptoms such as red cheeks, swollen gums and nappy rash”. Because the advertiser was unable to provide appropriate evidence to substantiate the claims, the ad was ruled misleading (The Amber Centre Ltd, 9 November 2011).
Similarly, in 2012 the ASA investigated an ad for teething necklaces which included claims that the succinic acid in amber “strengthens the body” and “improves immunity”. The advertiser was unable to provide appropriate substantiation to support the claims and it was therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code (Amber-Teething-Necklaces.co.uk, 10 October 2012).
Are amber teething necklaces suitable for infant use?
The ASA has investigated whether ads for teething necklaces could be irresponsible because they may be seen to encourage or condone infants wearing beaded necklaces. In one instance the ASA considered that without extremely close supervision, the encouragement to wear amber jewellery in an ad encouraged unsafe practice, especially for babies and especially at times when it was difficult or impossible for parents to supervise. (The Amber Centre Ltd, 9 November 2011).