Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A direct mailing for Source Ltd, which promoted the Meristem Dietary Supplement, received on 14 August 2017, described, over 18 pages, the product’s ability to “replace and renew every cell in the human body, completely rejuvenating it … effectively rejuvenate your 11 vital systems, restore your youth and recover perfect health as quickly as possible”. Text included “1. CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM Totally clear arteries! … Veins are quickly toned up and rejuvenated … 2. CUTANEOUS SYSTEM A firmer smoother skin … 3. NERVOUS SYSTEM Revitalise your mind … Improved mood and refreshing sleep … 4. THE SENSES The 5 senses working at 100% … 5. RESPIRATORY SYSTEM Excellent pulmonary health whatever time of the year … 6. GLANDULAR SYSTEM Perfect harmony with plant hormones! … 7. DIGESTIVE SYSTEM Good digestive transit … Good digestion guaranteed … 8. IMMUNE SYSTEM Natural defences fortified.… 9. SKELETAL AND JOINT SYSTEM Stronger joints … 10. URINARY SYSTEM Well-being and comfort guaranteed 24/7! … 11. GENITAL SYSTEM Enhanced sexual prowess”. Text stated that the product was “Specially recommended for” a range of medical conditions and diseases, including: arterial disease, stroke, heart attack, haemorrhoids, dermatitis conditions caused by infection or stress, memory loss, paralysis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression, conjunctivitis, cataracts, asthma, lung conditions, bronchitis, chronic fatigue, thyroid problems, diabetes, diarrhoea, colon and intestinal problems, liver problems, erectile dysfunction, rheumatism, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
A quote from a letter written by Dr. Powell, Director of Research For Source Ltd Laboratories stated, “I want to share an incredible event with you: an extraordinary discovery that will … let you protect yourself against disabling and serious illnesses”. Additional text in the letter referred to a trial conducted on Meristem, and stated “Each of the 3,200 patients truly felt the extraordinary benefits … whatever their age: All cholesterol and blood sugar readings return [sic] to normal. Using x-rays, we could see damaged cartilage being rebuilt and bones getting stronger. A significant improvement in blood circulation and sleep patterns, a marked improvement in vision and hearing and even the return of libido!”.
Two complainants challenged whether the following complied with the Code:
1. the specific health claims, which must be authorised on the EU Register of nutrition and health claims made on foods, and the general health claims which must be accompanied by a health claim authorised on the EU Register; and
2. the claims to prevent, treat or cure human disease.
3. The ASA challenged whether the ad included health claims which referred to the recommendation of an individual health professional.
Source Ltd did not provide a substantive response to the ASA’s enquiries.
According to the Regulation, only health claims which appeared on the list of authorised health claims (the EU Register) could be made in ads that promoted foods. Health claims were defined as those that stated, suggested or implied a relationship existed between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health. References to general benefits of a nutrient or food for overall good health or health related well-being were acceptable only if they were accompanied by a specific authorised health claim.
The mailing contained a range of claims which the ASA considered consumers would understand as stating or implying a relationship between the product and health, including claims which made references to general benefits for overall good health or health related well-being such as: “replace and renew every cell in the body”, “rejuvenate your 11 vital systems”, “Totally clear arteries! … Veins quickly toned up and rejuvenated. A firmer smoother skin Revitalise your mind … Improved mood and refreshing sleep …The 5 senses working at 100% …Excellent pulmonary health whatever time of the year … Good digestive transit … Good digestion guaranteed.…IMMUNE SYSTEM Natural defences fortified …Stronger joints.… Enhanced sexual prowess”.
Source Ltd did not provide any evidence to show any of the specific health claims in the ad were authorised on the EU Register in relation to the product or any of its ingredients. Additionally, none of the claims which referenced general benefits of the products or their ingredients for overall good health were accompanied by a specific authorised health claim. We therefore concluded that the specific health claims and general health claims in the ad breached the Code.
On this point the ad 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. and 15.2 15.2 References to general benefits of a nutrient or food for overall good health or health-related well-being are acceptable only if accompanied by a specific authorised health claim. (Food, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims).
The CAP Code stated that claims that stated or implied a food could prevent, treat or cure human disease were prohibited for foods (which included food supplements).
We considered that consumers would understand the claims “… protect yourself against disabling and serious illnesses”, “recover perfect health” and “specially recommended to prevent: memory loss, speech problems, loss of concentration and comprehension, motor problems, paralysis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases” to mean that the supplement could help to prevent, cure or treat the conditions mentioned in the ad. We noted there were also other similar claims featured throughout the ad which implied that the product could prevent, treat or cure a range of conditions. Some of the claims were accompanied by “before and after” images, such as an image of the back of a leg with varicose veins, next to an image of a leg without varicose veins, accompanied by the text “veins, relief within 7 days” and an image of an infected eye beside an image of a non-infected eye. We considered that the images also constituted claims to treat or cure disease.
We concluded the claims therefore implied the product prevented, treated or cured human disease, which was prohibited under the Code.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 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).
The CAP Code stated health claims which referred to the recommendation of an individual health professional were not acceptable in ads for food or food supplements.
We considered that consumers would understand the references to Dr. Powell, the “Director of Research of Source Laboratories”, in the context of an ad for food supplements, to mean that he was a health professional with expertise in that field. We noted that the ad featured a quote from Dr. Powell which stated, “I always advice [sic] a 60 or even 120 day course of treatment. This guarantees satisfactory cell renewal of every organ and a rapid return to perfect health”. We considered this to be a health claim and a recommendation of the product for the purposes of the Code. We also noted the quote from Dr. Robert Balmer, which stated “Your Meristem treatment is incredible! I’ve never seen such an effective solution for rejuvenating the body and restoring full health before - my patients are all made for it! ... I’ve always been a specialist in the treatment and medical care of age-related conditions”. We considered these were also health claims and the quote was a recommendation of the product from a health professional.
We therefore concluded the ad breached the Code because it included health claims that referred to the recommendation of individual health professionals.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 15.6.3 15.6.3 Health claims that refer to the recommendation of an individual health professional. Health claims that refer to the recommendation of an association are acceptable only if that association is a health-related charity or a national representative body of medicine, nutrition or dietetics (Food, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims).
The ad must not appear in its current form. We told Source Ltd not to make specific health claims unless they were authorised on the EU register, or general health claims unless they were accompanied by an authorised specific health claim, not to make claims that their product could prevent, treat or cure human disease and not to make health claims that referred to the recommendation of an individual health professional in ads for food supplements.