The website www.bigjuiceltd.com, for an online juice retailer, included text under the tabs "Wheatgrass" and "Health Benefits of Wheatgrass" that stated "Wheatgrass has many benefits. A single shot of wheatgrass is equivalent to the chlorophyl [sic] content of 2.5 lb of vegetables ... Wheatgrass Juice Benefits. It is a tonic for the liver. It cleanses the colon. Washes drug deposits from the body. Helps sugar problems. Reduces Varicose veins. Gargle wheatgrass for a sore throat. Promotes regularity. Removes heavy metals from the body. Arrests growth of unfriendly bacteria ... Helps skin problems such as eczema & psoriasis." The page also included the nutrient profile of wheatgrass juice.
The complainant, a scientist with a background in human biology, challenged whether the claimed "benefits" were misleading and could be substantiated.
Big Juice Ltd did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Big Juice Ltd's lack of substantive response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a substantive response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We considered that the claims "It cleanses the colon", "Washes drug deposits from the body", "Gargle wheatgrass for a sore throat", "Promotes regularity", "Removes heavy metals from the body", "Arrests growth of unfriendly bacteria" and "Helps skin problems such as eczema & psoriasis" were health claims, i.e. claims that stated, suggested or implied that a relationship existed between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health. Furthermore, we considered that the claims "It is a tonic for the liver", "Helps sugar problems" and "Reduces Varicose veins" were reduction of disease-risk claims, i.e. claims that stated, suggested or implied that the consumption of a food category, a food or one of its constituents significantly reduced a risk factor in the development of a human disease.
Health claims and reduction of disease risk claims were only acceptable under the CAP Code if they were listed as authorised in the EU Register of nutrition and health claims. We had not seen evidence that the claims in the ad were authorised by the European Commission and we concluded that they breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications that contain nutrition or health claims must be supported by documentary evidence to show they meet the conditions of use associated with the relevant claim, as specified in the EU Register. Claims must be presented clearly and without exaggeration.
Only nutrition claims listed in the updated Annex of the EU Regulation (as reproduced in the EU Register) may be used in marketing communications.
Only health claims listed as authorised in the EU Register, or claims that would have the same meaning to the consumer may be used in marketing communications.
http://www.ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/claims/community_register/authorised_health_claims_en.htm. and 15.6.2 15.6.2 Claims that state or imply a food prevents, treats or cures human disease. Reduction-of disease-risk claims are acceptable if authorised by the European Commission (Food, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims) and 15.7 15.7 Nutrition and health claims for food supplements must be permitted or authorised as provided for at rule 15.1.1 above. Marketing communications that contain nutrition or health claims must be supported by documentary evidence to show they meet the conditions of use associated with the relevant claim as specified in the EU Register. (Food supplements and other Vitamins and Minerals).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Big Juice not to make health claims or reduction of disease risk claims for foods if they were not listed as authorised in the EU Register. We referred the matter to CAP's Compliance team.