Problem Food Claims: Protein World Ltd breaks the UK advertising rules for making unauthorised health claims for its “Carb Blocker” supplement on the website.

Section 15 of the CAP Code states that only  health claims listed as “authorised” on the EU Register of nutrition and health claims are permitted in marketing communications. In order to comply, an advertiser needs to show that the health claims for each of their advertised products are listed as authorised on the EU Register and that the authorised claims relate to the relevant ingredient in the product.

The ASA investigated whether claims on the website that “Carb Blocker Capsules” could stop unused sugars from being stored as fat in the body breached the Code.

The ASA considered that in the context of a food supplement, consumers would consider “Carb Blocker” to refer to something that offered significantly greater prevention than the body could naturally achieve without its use, i.e. the significantly improved ability to prevent the storage of unused sugars as fat.

The ASA considered consumers would understand that process to be a health benefit of the product. The claims and product name were therefore health claims for the purposes of the CAP Code. The ASA did not consider that in the context of the advertising claims consumers would interpret the word “blocker” differently to “block” and “blocked”, as Protein World had suggested.

The ASA noted there were two authorised health claims on the EU Register for chromium: “Chromium contributes to normal macronutrient metabolism”; and “Chromium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels”. The claims could only be used for foods which were at least a source of trivalent chromium. However, Protein World did not provide evidence that demonstrated their product contained sufficient quantities of trivalent chromium to meet the conditions of use associated with either of the authorised health claims.

The ASA understood that marketers were allowed to exercise some flexibility in rewording authorised claims, provided that the reworded claim was likely to have the same meaning for consumers as the authorised health claim. The authorised claims for chromium related to “normal macronutrient metabolism” and “the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels”, and made clear that chromium “contribute[d]” to those physiological functions.

The ASA considered that Protein World’s advertising claims did not have the same meaning as the authorised claims, which referred to normal physiological processes of the body relating to macronutrient metabolism and blood glucose levels, because they implied the product was significantly greater at preventing carbohydrates, including unused sugars, from converting into fat. The ads also attributed the health benefits to the advertiser’s product rather than to the substance to which the authorised health claim related. The ASA concluded that the product name “Carb Blocker” and claims that the product prevented unused sugars being stored in the body did not accurately reflect the meaning of either of the specific authorised health claims and therefore breached the Code.

Article 1(3) of the Regulation allowed that a trade mark or brand name appearing in the advertising of a food, which may be construed as a nutrition or health claim, may be used provided that it was accompanied by a permitted nutrition or authorised health claim in that advertising. The ASA considered that in such instances the accompanying nutrition or health claim must bear relevance to the nutrition or health claim made in the trade mark or brand name. The ASA noted that the product name “Carb Blocker”, which as referenced above was a health claim, was not accompanied by an authorised health claim in the ads. The ASA furthermore understood that there were no authorised health claims on the EU Register, for any substance, which would be understood by consumers as having the same meaning as the health claim “Carb Blocker”. The ASA therefore considered the product name “Carb Blocker” also breached the Code in that regard.

Because the health claims made in advertising for the Carb Blocker product were not authorised on the EU Register, the ASA concluded the ads breached the Code.

Despite repeated requests from the CAP Compliance team to remove the unauthorised health claims, Protein World continues to feature them on the website.

Due to Protein World’s continued non-compliance and disregard for the CAP Code, the CAP Compliance team took the decision to place its company details on this section of the ASA website on 10 April 2018. This page was reviewed on 10 May 2021, and shall remain in place until Protein World has removed the unauthorised health claims from to ensure compliance with the CAP Code.   

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