Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
One Facebook ad and two Instagram ads, posted by Revival Shots:
a. The Facebook ad, posted on 12 April 2020, stated “Each stick of Revival contains … 500mg of vitamin C …” and featured an image with text that stated "VITAMIN-C HAS BEEN PROVEN TO BOOST IMMUNITY BY MANY GLOBAL STUDIES … IT IS NOW BEING TESTED IN THE USA & CHINA AS A POSSIBLE CURE FOR COVID-19”.
b. The first Instagram ad, posted on 12 April 2020, was the same as ad (a).
c. The second Instagram ad, posted in April 2020, stated “Today we have officially past [sic] 500 independent verified reviews on Amazon … Here is one of the latest reviews from a customer in UK … #immunity #immunityboost #vitaminc … #staysafe”. The image featured a five-star review which stated “Great ! After developing symptoms of a sore throat & headache I got paranoid. I ordered this concentration of Vit C and took one stick. In about half an hour I felt instantly revived and my headache disappeared and sore throat was greatly reduced. Since taking I have had no symptoms. I highly recommend … 30 March 2020”.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. ads (a), (b) and (c) implied that the product, or the vitamin C it contained, could cure COVID-19, were claims to prevent, treat or cure disease, which were prohibited by the Code; and
2. the claims in ads (a), (b) and (c) that the product, or the vitamin C it contained, could boost immunity, complied with the Code.
ResponseRevival Drinks Ltd t/a Revival Shots said that the ads had been removed.
The CAP Code stated that claims which stated or implied a food could prevent, treat or cure human disease were prohibited for foods; this included food supplements and drinks. Ads (a) and (b) stated that each Revival ‘stick’ contained 500 mg of vitamin C, and featured the claim that vitamin C was “… NOW BEING TESTED IN THE USA & CHINA AS A POSSIBLE CURE FOR COVID-19”.
We considered the ad therefore implied that consuming Revival Shots could, through their vitamin C content, help to cure COVID-19. Ad (c) featured a customer review which stated “After developing symptoms of a sore throat & headache I got paranoid. I … took one stick. In about half an hour I felt instantly revived and my headache disappeared and sore throat was greatly reduced. Since taking I have no symptoms” and featured the hashtag “#staysafe”. Given that the ad was posted in mid-April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, referred to symptoms sometimes associated with COVID-19 and the reviewer’s ‘paranoia’ about those symptoms, and included the hashtag “#staysafe” which was commonly associated with the pandemic, we considered consumers would understand that the claims in the review were intended to be understood to relate to COVID-19. We considered the ad therefore implied that Revival Shots could help to cure COVID-19. We considered that even if the ad was not taken to relate specifically to curing COVID-19 it nonetheless claimed that Revival Shots had cured a headache and sore throat. Because COVID-19, headaches, and sore throats were medical conditions, we considered that ad (a) stated, and ad (b) implied, that Revival Shots could cure human disease. Such claims were prohibited for foods and the ads therefore breached the Code.
On that point, ads (a), (b) and (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 15.6 15.6 These are not acceptable in marketing communications for products within the remit of this section: 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).
According to Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods (the Regulation), which was reflected in the CAP Code, only health claims listed as authorised on the EU Register of nutrition and health claims (the Register) were permitted in marketing communications. The CAP Code defined health claims as those that stated, suggested or implied a relationship between a food, drink or ingredient and health. Ads (a) and (b) stated that Revival Shots contained vitamin C and that “VITAMIN-C HAS BEEN PROVEN TO BOOST IMMUNITY…”. Ad (c) included the hashtags “#immunity #immunityboost #vitaminc #vitamins #vitamind”. Claims that a food or nutrient was relevant to immunity or could “boost” immunity were health claims for the purposes of the Regulation.
The Register included the authorised health claims that vitamins C and D (and other vitamins) “contribute[d] to the normal function of the immune system”. However, Revival Shots had not provided any evidence to demonstrate that their products contained any vitamin in amounts sufficient that they could use any of those authorised health claims in advertising for their products. Furthermore, we considered that the claim “#immunity” did not properly communicate the meaning of those authorised health claims to consumers, and the claims “BOOST IMMUNITY” and “#immunityboost” exaggerated the meaning of those authorised claims’ wording. Because the ads made specific health claims but we had not seen evidence that any of Revival Shots’ products met the conditions of use associated with a relevant authorised claim on the Register, and the advertising claims in any case did not properly communicate the meaning of relevant claims authorised on the Register, we concluded the ads breached the Code.
On that point, ads (a), (b) and (c) 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. (Food, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Revival Drinks Ltd t/a Revival Shots to ensure their ads did not state or imply that their food product could prevent, treat or cure human disease, including COVID-19. We also told them to ensure that any health claims made in their advertising were authorised on the Register, met the conditions of use for the authorised claims, and properly communicated the meaning of the authorised claim.