On 14 June 2012, Commission Regulation (EU) No 432/21012 of 16 May 2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children's development and health, came into force.
A TV ad, for Rowse honey, viewed in April 2012, featured a boy, in a school uniform, sitting at a table, eating porridge. The boy then went to a kitchen cupboard and selected some honey. He squeezed the honey on to his porridge, making a smiley face, and then started to eat it. The boy was then shown playing football in a school playground and participating in various lessons, including a baking lesson where he squeezed honey into a cooking bowl and tasted the honey from his finger. The accompanying voice-over stated, "Rowse Honey is a natural source of slow release energy for busy boys and girls." The boy was then shown returning home, where his mother was basting a roasted chicken with honey. The mother said, "Hi love, how was your day?" to which the boy replied, "Busy." The voice-over then stated, "Rowse Honey: natural fuel for busy bees." The ad showed an image of the advertised product and was accompanied by on-screen text which stated "Natural fuel for busy bees".
Nine complainants challenged whether the claim "Rowse Honey is a natural source of slow release energy" was misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood it was not a source of slow release energy.
Rowse believed the term 'slow release energy' implied the energy from a food was delivered more slowly than a comparable food or ingredient. They pointed out that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had released an opinion in which they commented that "fructose is more slowly absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract than glucose ... " and further stated "Consumption of fructose-containing foods leads to a lower blood glucose rise than consumption of sucrose - or glucose-containing foods". They believed Rowse honey qualified for the claim because it was a significant source of fructose and provided nutritional analysis in support of that belief. They said EFSA made clear that the claim could be used in commercial communications provided fructose was used as a replacement for glucose or sucrose in sugar sweetened foods or beverages. They believed the ad complied with that condition because it showed a boy using honey instead of table sugar (sucrose) in porridge and while baking cakes.
Rowse also provided a number of clinical studies and argued they supported the fact that the consumption of honey resulted in a slower blood glucose rise compared to the consumption of other sugars. However, they provided no evidence to demonstrate that the advertised product had been used in the studies.
Rowse pointed out that the average glycaemic index (GI) value of honey was 55, which meant it was at the top end of a low GI food. After having received the complaint, Rowse conducted a GI test for the advertised product. They said the GI test certificate showed that the GI for the advertised product was 55 +/- 5 and argued that that evidence substantiated the claim that "Rowse Honey is a natural source of slow release energy".
Clearcast also said the average GI of honey was 55, which meant it was within the accepted range for lower GI foods. They also referred to the GI test certificate and reiterated Rowse's argument that that evidence substantiated the claim. They also said they had sought advice from a consultant who considered the claim was accurate.
The ASA noted we had not seen evidence to demonstrate that the clinical studies referred to by Rowse related specifically to Rowse honey. We also noted Rowse's comments that the average GI value for honey was 55 and that the test certificate showed that the GI value for the advertised product was 55 +/- 5. However, we noted the GI test was conducted after the complaint had been received and, we therefore considered the GI test was inadmissible to support the claim at the time the ad was first broadcast.
Notwithstanding that, we sought expert advice on the GI test cited by Rowse in support of the claim that "Rowse Honey is a natural source of slow release energy". We noted the expert considered the GI value of Rowse honey was possibly correct and fitted with other tested honeys. We also understood that the methodology used in the GI test was of good quality.
We understood from our expert that foods were deemed to have a low GI when the value was 55 or below. We noted their concerns that the GI test, provided by Rowse, showed that the reported GI value was 55 +/- 5 and therefore the actual GI value fell within the range between 50 and 60. We also noted their concerns that the test had not been repeated to confirm the GI value. On that basis, we considered the GI test, submitted by Rowse, was not sufficient to demonstrate that the product had a GI value of 55 or below and was therefore a low GI food.
We also noted the ad claimed that the advertised product was a natural source of slow release energy, rather than it being a low GI food. We understood from expert advice that the GI test measured only glucose in the blood and did not account for the absorption of other sugars, such as fructose, which were also present in the advertised product. We also understood that fructose was absorbed rapidly from the intestine and that evidence suggested fructose absorption was more efficient in the presence of glucose. We were therefore concerned that the GI test was not sufficient to substantiate the claim that Rowse Honey was a natural source of slow release energy.
We understood that, although not binding until approved by the European Commission and added to the Register, a positive EFSA opinion should be regarded as a valid scientific opinion. We acknowledged that EFSA had given a positive opinion that the consumption of foods containing fructose led to a lower blood glucose rise than the consumption of sucrose or glucose containing foods and that in order to bear the claim glucose or sucrose should be replaced by fructose in sugar-sweetened foods or beverages.
We also acknowledged the clinical studies Rowse referred to and noted their argument that the studies demonstrated that the consumption of honey produced a slower rise in blood glucose than the consumption of other sugars. However, we were concerned that the ad did not make that clear. In particular, we noted the ad did not state that Rowse honey was considered a source of slow release energy by comparison to the consumption of sucrose or glucose containing foods. We were also concerned that the scenes in which the product was featured: as an addition to porridge, in baking a cake and to baste a chicken, did not make sufficiently clear that Rowse honey was considered a source of slow release energy when it was used as a replacement for sugar-sweetened foods or beverages that contained sucrose or glucose.
Because the ad did not make clear that the consumption of Rowse honey led to a lower blood glucose rise than the consumption of sucrose or glucose containing foods, we concluded that the claim was misleading and therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is 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).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.