Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
Seven tweets from the Simple As Fat Twitter account:
a. A tweet published on 2 July 2018 stated “Goodness me there may be a Crisp Crisis due to hot weather. Oh dear what a shame! NOT! Crisps are a heart attack in a bag. I was addicted and bought them out of habit but let me assure you Pork Scratchings are a much better and healthier option”.
b. A tweet published on 16 July 2018 stated “After #BastilleDay and winning the #WorldCup the French will no doubt be on a liquid diet! But French food is definitely not off the menu for those of us eating #LowCarbHighFat. Au contraire, the more butter the better! How does steak smothered with our herby garlic butter sound?”.
c. A tweet published on 27 August 2018 stated “Please have a listen to my new FREE Podcast. You can cure Type 2 Diabetes with real food NOT more pills. You can cure #obesity get #weightlosstransformation with #LCHF NOT a ‘magic pill’ LISTEN”. A ‘before’ and ‘after’ image of Jon Gaunt was captioned “Simple as Fat. Freedom from Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes”.
d. A tweet published on 28 August 2018 stated “DO NOT EAT CEREALS. Eat the breakfast of champions. 2 Fried Eggs, 2 rashers of local butcher bought bacon, whole fried tomato, black coffee with double cream. Feel satisfied but not stuffed and you won’t need to eat till teatime! That’s the magic of #LCHF @Simpleasfat”.
e. A tweet published on 12 September 2018 stated “New SAF member Jon learned that @jongaunt is right when he says not to rely only on the scales. Jon was a little disappointed with the lbs (yes plural lbs) lost in his first week eating #LCHF, until he looked at a photo taken the previous week. What a difference a week makes!”. The text was accompanied by two images of a man’s face, labelled “WEEK 1” and “WEEK 2”.
f. A tweet published on 11 October 2018 stated “Has your #Type2diabetes led to erectile dysfunction? Don’t be embarrassed, do what @jongaunt did and fix it. Find out how”. An embedded video was captioned with the text “Welcome to Simple as Fat Discover how Jon Gaunt lost 70lbs, reversed his Type 2 diabetes and turned his life around, while eating real food and never feeling hungry”.
g. A tweet published on 14 October 2018 stated “#Type2Diabetes will never be cured by medication. Only you can reverse it by eating real food, cutting carbs and sugar and getting off your fat ass and walking like @jongaunt did”.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. ads (c), (f) and (g) discouraged essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, namely diabetes, erectile dysfunction and obesity, and whether the Simple as Fat plan was a treatment for obesity which was used under suitably qualified supervision;
2. the weight loss claims for the Simple as Fat plan, including those in ads (c), (e) and (f), could be substantiated; and
3. Simple as Fat offered a nutritionally well-balanced diet plan.
1., 2. & 3. ASC Twelve Ltd t/a Simple As Fat said the NHS had introduced a new ‘Low Carb’ initiative, was rolling out a drastic weight loss programme of over two stone in two months to reverse Type 2 diabetes, and new ‘Low Carb’ training for GPs.
Ads (c), (f) and (g) included claims which referred to Jon Gaunt curing, reversing and finding “freedom from” his Type 2 diabetes, curing and finding “Freedom from” obesity, and ‘fixing’ erectile dysfunction caused by Type 2 diabetes through eating “real food”. The ads also included claims which suggested that consumers could achieve the same results by following the same approach, such as “do what @jongaunt did”. We considered consumers would understand from the ads that the diet plan offered by Simple As Fat was an effective treatment for those conditions.
The Code explained that obesity was frequently associated with a medical condition, and specified that a treatment for it must not be advertised to the public unless it was to be used under suitably qualified supervision (or met specific standards laid out in the Code). The Code also required that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought by offering treatment for such conditions, unless that treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.
We had not seen evidence which showed that Simple As Fat’s diet plan, when used as a treatment for obesity, would be used under suitably qualified supervision. Because the ads advertised a treatment for obesity to the public which was not used under suitably qualified medical supervision, we concluded they breached the Code in that regard.
We also had not seen evidence that the diet plan was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional. Because the ads offered treatment for Type 2 diabetes, obesity and erectile dysfunction, but that treatment was not conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional, we concluded the ads also discouraged essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.
On that point, ads (c), (f) and (g) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. For example, they must not offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment is conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional. Accurate and responsible general information about such conditions may, however, be offered (see rule 12.11).
Health professionals will be deemed suitably qualified only if they can provide suitable credentials, for example, evidence of: relevant professional expertise or qualifications; systems for regular review of members' skills and competencies and suitable professional indemnity insurance covering all services provided; accreditation by a professional or regulatory body that has systems for dealing with complaints and taking disciplinary action and has registration based on minimum standards for training and qualifications. (Medicines, medical devices, health-relates products and beauty products), 13.2 13.2 Obesity in adults is defined by a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30 kg/m2. Obesity is frequently associated with a medical condition and, except where stated in 13.2.1, a treatment for it must not be advertised to the public unless it is to be used under suitably qualified supervision. Non-prescription medicines that are indicated for the treatment of obesity and that require the involvement of a pharmacist in the sale or supply of the medicine may nevertheless be advertised to the public. and 13 .2.1 (Weight control and slimming).
We considered the claims “get #weightlosstransformation with #LCHF” in ad (c) and “Jon Gaunt lost 70lbs” in ad (f), and the photos in ad (e) in which the man’s face appeared slimmer in the “WEEK 2” photo compared to the “WEEK 1” photo would be understood by consumers to mean that the diet plan offered by Simple As Fat would result in weight loss, including noticeable weight loss within two weeks.
The CAP Code stated that any claim made for the effectiveness of a weight-reduction method must be backed, if applicable, by rigorous trials on people, and that testimonials that were not supported by trials did not constitute substantiation. Because we had not seen evidence that Simple As Fat’s diet plan could result in weight loss we concluded the ads breached the Code in that regard.
On that point, ads (c), (e) and (f) 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 13.1 13.1 A weight-reduction regime in which the intake of energy is lower than its output is the most common self-treatment for achieving weight reduction. Any claim made for the effectiveness or action of a weight-reduction method or product must be backed, if applicable, by rigorous trials on people; testimonials that are not supported by trials do not constitute substantiation. (Weight control and slimming).
The Code stated that advertisers must be able to show that their diet plans were nutritionally balanced (except for providing a deficit of energy).
Simple As Fat had not provided any information about their diet plan, although we understood from their advertising, including ads (a), (b), (d) and (g), that the plan was based around a low carbohydrate, low sugar, high fat diet. We understood that NHS advice on eating a healthy, balanced diet advised basing meals on starchy foods, eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, some dairy, beans, pulses, fish, eggs, and lean meat. NHS advice on losing weight healthily included avoiding low carbohydrate diets which were high in protein and fat, because many such diets allowed dieters to eat foods high in saturated fat, such as butter and meat, which could raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Simple As Fat had referenced that the NHS was introducing new 'low carb' diet initiatives but they did not provide any details of the nutritional composition of those diets, or whether the Simple As Fat diet plan had a similar nutritional composition to those diets.
We were therefore concerned that the Simple As Fast diet plan was not in line with the government’s recommendations regarding a nutritionally well-balanced diet and how to lose weight healthily. We therefore concluded the ads breached the Code.
On that point, ads (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f) and (g) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 13.5 13.5 Marketers must be able to show that their diet plans are nutritionally well-balanced (except for producing a deficit of energy) and that must be assessed in relation to the category of person who would use them. (Weight control and slimming).
We told ASC Twelve Ltd t/a Simple As Fat not to state or imply that their diet plan was a treatment for obesity or for other conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, such as Type 2 diabetes and erectile dysfunction. We told them not to claim the diet plan was effective for weight loss. We also told them not to advertise their diet plan unless they held evidence to show that it was nutritionally well-balanced.