Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.

Ad description

An advertorial, seen in the July 2015 edition of Horse and Hound, for a horse supplement was headed "JOINT SUPPLEMENTS - LATEST FINDINGS? Whatever we do with our horses, be it hacking or four-star eventing, we need them to be sound and fit for purpose. This means ensuring our horses' joints are fit and healthy at all times. Kate Hore RNutr (Animal), looks into current research and considers the best way forward". The ad described two research trials and made a number of efficacy claims for the advertised product including "Feed NAF Five Star Superflex daily for sound joints".


The complainant challenged whether:

1. the claim "Feed NAF Five Star Superflex daily for sound joints" was misleading and could be substantiated; and

2. the ad gave the misleading impression that the author was independent, whereas they understood that she was employed by NAF (National Animal Feeds).


1. Greencoat Ltd t/a Natural Animal Feeds said the claim "Feed NAF Five Star Superflex daily for sound joints" was intended to summarise the findings of two studies on the effects on horse joints of an oral glucosamine sulphate-based combination joint supplement. They said one study concluded that more horses would remain sound for longer and reach their performance capability and fewer horses would retire early due to decreased flexibility. The second study concluded that the use of a joint supplement as a performance enhancer in older horses might help the cartilage to be maintained at the same level for longer, thereby preventing the development of degenerative joint disease. They supplied the ASA with both studies plus a third pilot study on the effects of the product on lameness.

2. National Animal Feeds explained that Kate Hore was employed as their Head Nutritionist and was well known in the equestrian industry in that role. She had written various articles for House and Hound in the past as well as other consumer magazines. In some cases, the articles stated she worked for National Animal Feeds. They said there was no intention to mislead readers and they believed that it was clear throughout the article that Ms Hore worked for NAF and the article stated that she was interviewing NAF's Veterinary Director. They also believed that the ad was clearly labelled as a promotional feature and followed an ad for the advertised product.


1. Upheld

The ASA considered that the pilot study on the effects of the supplement on lameness in horses was not relevant to the claim in the advertorial, which concerned the effects of the product on sound joints. We noted the claim “Feed NAF Five Star Superflex daily for sound joints” was based on the two studies referenced in the ad; neither study appeared to have been published or peer-reviewed.

Both studies had been carried out on sound horses in regular exercise or work and the advertised product was used in both cases. The first study was a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial conducted on 19 horses of various breeds, which were given either NAF Five Star Superflex or a placebo substance. Gait measurements were taken from each horse to assess whether there was any difference in range of motion.

The data was collected at 6 and 12 weeks post treatment and the hind limb deviation from a midline was calculated. However, due to technical issues with the gait analysis machinery, no baseline gait analysis was taken pre-treatment. A paired t-test was used to determine the statistical significance of the data comparing the difference between each limb for the two data collections for each group. The study concluded that the treatment group demonstrated a significant difference in range of motion for the left and right hind limbs at post supplementation at 12 weeks and the results for the control group were not statistically different in range.

We considered that the failure to collect initial data as a basis for comparison with the subsequently acquired data was a serious flaw in the research. We also had concerns with other aspects of the experiment. We understood that the horse had to stand still for at least 10 seconds for the gait analysis machinery to be calibrated, but some of the horses found it difficult to remain stationary for that amount of time, which we considered affected the reliability of the results obtained on those occasions. The administration of the supplement and placebo was reliant on a third party and therefore it was not possible to monitor whether the horses were given the correct dosage each day. Although we acknowledged that steps were taken to ensure that the horses' daily routine remained the same, because their riders were not always the same, the horses would be ridden differently and therefore the intensity of the work or exercise might fluctuate depending on the riding, which was likely to have an effect on limb movement.

Although fore limb readings were collected, we noted those results had not been included in the study conclusions and there was no explanation for the exclusion of that data. We were concerned that the fore limb data may have conflicted with the hind limb data. Notwithstanding our other concerns with the study methodology, we therefore considered that as the conclusions were only concerned with the hind limbs, it would not be adequate to support the general claim of “sound joints”.

The second study involved feeding the supplement to ten healthy horses over the age of 12 over a four-week period. Three sets of measurements for stride length, swing and stance duration, and major joint angles were taken at comfortable and maximum pace. Markers were placed on the animals on the day of data collection with measurements being taken at weeks zero, two and four. The conclusions showed that the results varied, with the effects inconsistent between paces and with joint angles remaining unchanged throughout the test period. The study also concluded that further work was required to determine whether any benefits were maintained long term.

The study was not double-blind or placebo controlled and the tests were carried out over a short four-week period, which we considered was not a sufficiently long period of time to determine whether the product would provide horses with sound joints as claimed. We also understood that errors in marker placement and markers sliding on the horses’ skin were likely to provide inconsistent measurements, therefore casting doubts on any recorded results. The study acknowledged that the effects were inconsistent and the effect on joint angles remained unchanged. We therefore considered that the study did not support the efficacy claim of “sound joints”.

We noted both studies acknowledged that there was little scientific evidence to support the use of oral joint supplements for horses and that more research was needed. Given our concerns with the studies as stated above, we considered that they were not sufficiently robust to substantiate the claim “Feed NAF Five Star Superflex daily for sound joints” and therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  (Misleading advertising),  3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.  (Substantiation) and  12.1 12.1 Objective claims must be backed by evidence, if relevant consisting of trials conducted on people. Substantiation will be assessed on the basis of the available scientific knowledge.
Medicinal or medical claims and indications may be made for a medicinal product that is licensed by the MHRA, VMD or under the auspices of the EMA, or for a CE-marked medical device. A medicinal claim is a claim that a product or its constituent(s) can be used with a view to making a medical diagnosis or can treat or prevent disease, including an injury, ailment or adverse condition, whether of body or mind, in human beings.
Secondary medicinal claims made for cosmetic products as defined in the appropriate European legislation must be backed by evidence. These are limited to any preventative action of the product and may not include claims to treat disease.
 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

2. Upheld

The ad was in the style of a magazine article and the only indication that it was an advertorial was text at the top of the second and third pages that stated “H&H PROMOTION”. However, we considered that was insufficient to identify the content as marketing material. Rather than clarifying that the ad was an advertiser controlled promotion, “H&H PROMOTION” implied that the magazine was running its own promotion and added to the overall impression that it was an article written by an independent journalist.

We understood that Kate Hore worked for National Animal Feeds as Head Nutritionist but, although the ad quoted her qualification, it did not mention her relationship with the company. We considered that, given that it was not clear that the ad was an advertorial, without acknowledgment of her connection to National Animal Feeds, consumers would understand from the claim “Kate Hore RNutr (Animal) looks into current research and considers the best way forward” that the writer was an independent expert, rather than an employee of the company.

We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to mislead readers about the nature of the marketing communication and the writer’s impartiality.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  2.4 2.4 Marketers and publishers must make clear that advertorials are marketing communications; for example, by heading them "advertisement feature".  (Recognition of marketing communications) and  3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  (Misleading advertising).


The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Greencoat Ltd to ensure that they held suitably robust evidence to support efficacy claims for their products. We also told them to ensure that advertorials were clearly marked as such and not to misleadingly imply that the author was independent if that was not the case.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

12.1     2.4     3.1     3.7    

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