Three issues were investigated, one of which was Upheld, and two issues were informally resolved after the advertiser agreed to amend their advertising.
A website for Equine 74, www.equine74.com, a supplement for horses, seen on 18 June 2018, featured a homepage titled “A Safe and Natural Way of Maintaining a Healthy Stomach”. The page including text stating “Equine 74 Gastric helps to maintain a healthy pH level in the stomach by acting as a long-lasting buffer”, and listed the benefits of the product, which included “Buffers excess acid in the stomach”, “Helps support the gastric mucosa from the effects of natural stomach acid” and “The honeycomb structure of the algae acts as a time release long lasting buffer”. A page titled “About Us” featured text stating “its unique honeycomb structure also enables a slow release of valuable bio-available minerals over an extended period of time” and “Put simply, Equine 74 works - it has been trialled, researched and has lots of anecdotal success too”.
The complainant challenged whether the claims that Equine 74 acted as a long-lasting buffer to excess acid in horses’ stomachs and enabled slow release of nutrients were misleading and could be substantiated.
AD Consultancy (Cheshire) Ltd t/a Equine 74 (Equine 74) said the main mode of action of their product was to buffer excess acid, and that it buffered acid over a long period of time, which proved that minerals were released slowly by the product. In support of the claims, they provided a report by a university titled “Improving Horses’ Diets with Equine 74”, from 2009. It investigated the buffering action and fermentation activity of Equine 74, when incubated in vitro with four fibre and concentrate feed mixes, by measuring gas production. The advertiser also provided an abstract of the results of a titration analysis to determine the solubility of the calcium and magnesium content of the product, which they said was provided by the product’s manufacturer.
Equine 74 provided an additional research paper from 2014 which investigated the effects of a marine-derived, multi-mineral supplement, EquMin Plus, in simulated in vitro equine stomach and gut environments. They said that because the results showed a significant reduction of acidity when the supplement was added to various fibre and concentrate feeds, at only 1% of the total feed, the study demonstrated a long-lasting buffering action over a range of conditions. In addition the advertiser provided a letter from Marigot Ltd stating that the product tested in the 2014 trial, EquMin Plus, had been renamed Equine 74, and that the raw material composition of EquMin Plus was now marketed and sold as Equine 74.
Equine 74 also provided a letter from an independent consultant equine nutritionist who had commented that in-vitro trials were used worldwide for scientific experiments, and the 2014 trial involved in-vitro research using standard scientific protocols, and therefore proved that Equine 74 had an acid buffering action. They said in-vitro trials negated the need to use live animals in trials, which was practically very difficult and often involved prohibitive costs.
The claims in the ad included “Equine 74 Gastric helps to maintain a healthy pH level in the stomach by acting as a long-lasting buffer”, “Buffers excess acid in the stomach” and “its unique honeycomb structure also enables a slow release of valuable bio-available minerals over an extended period of time”. The ASA considered that consumers would understand those claims to mean that Equine 74 shielded horses’ stomachs from excess acid over a long period, and that it released nutrients slowly over a long period.
We reviewed the evidence provided in support of the referenced claims. The abstract of the results of a titration analysis of Equine 74 did not include any details of the test, including the methodology, and did not appear to test whether the product buffered acid or was long-lasting, therefore we considered it was not relevant substantiation in support of the challenged claims.
The 2009 university report concluded that Equine 74 would increase gut fermentation over 18 hours, and would buffer unwanted excess acid, because the pH remained constant during that period in the test despite a rise in lactate production. It suggested that Equine 74 could therefore be a suitable supplement for horses. While the study tested the buffering action of the product, it was an in-vitro test that had not been peer reviewed. It included an indication of how long the buffering lasted, however it did not aim to test whether Equine 74 was a long lasting buffer or slowly released nutrients, and the results did not suggest that the product was longer lasting than other similar products.
The 2014 trial, which was peer reviewed, stated the results indicated that the supplement EquMin Plus tested in in-vitro environments had a significant buffering action for four to six hours. We understood EquMin plus had been renamed as Equine 74, however based on information about the composition of Equine 74 on the website, we understood there were differences in the composition of the two products. The report concluded that the main limitations of the study were the lack of in-vivo efficacy data and that the preliminary results provided a rationale for progression of testing to in-vivo trials, including testing the duration of the gastric buffering effects.
Because the 2009 and 2014 studies provided by the advertiser were both in-vitro tests, and neither tested whether Equine 74 was a long lasting buffer or slowly released nutrients, we considered that they did not provide the level of substantiation or body of evidence we would expect to support the claims in the ad. We therefore considered that the claims that Equine 74 acted as a long-lasting buffer to excess acid in horses’ stomachs, and enabled the slow release of nutrients, had not been adequately substantiated and were misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
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.
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).
The ad must not appear in its current form again. We told AD Consultancy (Cheshire) Ltd t/a Equine 74 that they must not misleadingly state or imply that Equine 74 acted as a long-lasting buffer to excess acid in horses’ stomachs and enabled the slow release of nutrients, and they must hold robust substantiation before making such claims.