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.

On occasion, product names include health or weight loss claims, or objective claims about the product. The CAP Code applies to claims which appear in product or company names in the same way as it does to claims appearing elsewhere in ads. Marketers should avoid making any claims in their product or company name, unless the claim is an acceptable claim which can be made about the product.

Health claims in names for food products

Book and publication titles 

Responsibility, harm and offence 

Health claims in names for food products

For foods, all product and brand names must comply with Section 15 of the CAP Code. A health claim for a food should only be made if the claim is “authorised” and listed on the GB NHC Register (rule 15.1.1). Similarly, only nutrition claims listed in the GB NHC Register may be used in ads. Ads must conform with the conditions set out in the GB NHC Register for both health and nutrition claims.

If a product name states or implies that the product has a nutritional or health-related benefit, it must be accompanied by a relevant authorised health or nutrition claim from the GB NHC Register. If there are no relevant authorised claims on the GB NHC Register, the product name could be deemed to be making an unauthorised claim.

In 2023, the ASA investigated an ad in which the term ‘probiotic’ featured in the product name ‘Smart Probiotic’. In the context of the ads as a whole, consumers were likely to understand the term ‘probiotic’ as describing a substance that contributed to the general good health of the gut. This term was considered a general health claim, and in the absence of an accompanying authorised specific health claim, the claim breached the CAP Code (Braincare Ltd, 31 May 2023).

In 2018 the ASA considered that the product name “Carb Blocker Capsules” was a health claim, as consumers would understand the process of ‘carb blocking’ to be a health benefit. According to the advertiser, the product contained chromium, for which there were two authorised health claims on the Register. However, the product did not meet the conditions of use associated with these claims, ‘Carb Blocker’ did not accurately reflect the meaning of either claim (which related to the metabolism and blood glucose levels respectively), and the product name was not accompanied by a relevant claim (as none existed in respect of ‘Carb Blocker’). Consequently, the use of the product name breached the CAP Code (Protein World Ltd, 21 March 2018).

Some exemptions for food products previously applied. For example, trade marks or brand names that existed before 1 January 2005 did not have to be accompanied by a relevant, authorised claim until 19 January 2022. This period has now passed, so trade marks or product names which existed pre-2005 must now be accompanied by a relevant authorised claim, or be understood by consumers as having the same meaning as an authorised claim. Marketers who previously relied on this exemption are advised to obtain legal advice on the use of the product name in advertising going forward.

Also see CAP Advice on Food: Health and Nutrition (General)Weight control: claims in names, and Food: general health claims.

Book and publication titles 

Code rule 3.8 states:

“Claims for the content of non-fiction publications should not exaggerate the value, accuracy, scientific validity or practical usefulness of the product. Marketers must ensure that claims that have not been independently substantiated but are based merely on the content of a publication do not mislead consumers”.

If the title of a book or publication constitutes an unproven objective claim, it may be featured in advertising provided the title is in inverted commas and is followed immediately by the author's name. The rest of the ad should make clear the title is not an objective claim.

For example, a claim such as “How to cure depression by drinking tea” would normally be unacceptable because not only does it target sufferers of a serious medical condition (contrary to rule 12.2), but it is also unlikely that advertisers could substantiate it. However, if that claim forms the title of the book, it would be acceptable for the ad to say "How to cure depression by drinking tea" by John Smith” provided the accompanying copy conveys the content of the book in more neutral or (as per the relevant Advertising Guidance) discursive terms, for example “the author discusses depression and examines the validity of various treatments”. 

See Books and publications and Guidance on the marketing of publications for more information.

Responsibility, harm and offence

When promoting products or services, marketers must ensure that the name of the product or service is not likely to cause serious or widespread offence, and that the name is responsible.

In 2022, a complainant challenged whether the name of a food supplement for female horses, ‘Slut Mix’, was sexist and perpetuated negative stereotypes of women. The ASA considered that even in the context of an ad for horse supplements, consumers were likely to consider the term ‘slut’ to be highly offensive, derogatory towards women, and sexist. The ad, which included an offensive gender stereotype, was deemed likely to cause serious offence (LeMieux Ltd, 27 April 2022).

The ASA has upheld a complaint about an ad that featured a book called “SIX WEEKS TO OMG, GET SKINNIER THAN ALL YOUR FRIENDS” on the grounds that it could encourage vulnerable individuals to engage in competitive dieting or unhealthy eating habits. (Michael Joseph Ltd, 3 October 2012).

Ads must not cause harm, or serious or widespread offence, and marketers should be conscious of this when advertising any product. Advertisers may need to consider context, medium and audience when advertising some products, such as those which include swearing in the name, to ensure that they are targeted appropriately.  

See Offence: general for further details.


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