A website, www.yourzooki.com, seen on 12 October 2020, for YourZooki, a company selling food supplements featured a page titled "Vitamin C Zooki". Text at the top of the page stated "Liposomal Vitamin C", alongside an image of the product box and packaging that stated "VITAMIN C ZOOKI … LIPOSOMAL VITAMIN C". Further text stated "Great tasting Liposomal Vitamin C … Vitamin C Zooki is an advanced on-the-go Liposomal Vitamin C. Our Liposomes protect the Vitamin C through the gastro-intestinal tract and deliver the Vitamin C directly to cells". Further down the page was a pack shot of the product with accompanying text that stated "Liposomal technology … Vitamin C Zooki is made possible by the patented liposomal encapsulation technology". Beneath that was a section titled "What are Liposomes?" that stated "... we can wrap Vitamin C in something called ‘Liposomes’ … Liposomes are made up of phospholipids…".
IssueAbundance & Health Ltd, understood that Vitamin C Zooki did not contain liposomes, and challenged whether the claims about the liposomal nature of the product were misleading and could be substantiated.
YourZooki Ltd explained that Liposomal Vitamin C was an emulsion containing phospholipids, such as phosphatidylcholine, which was wrapped in layers around the vitamin C, and that the term “liposomal” was an inherent characteristic of the product's composition rather than a claim. They said that liposomes came in many forms and were widely present in many consumer products.
YourZooki said the advertised product had been analysed using a variety of testing methods which, they believed, confirmed the presence of liposomal vitamin C particles. They provided copies of two independent studies, one from 2017 and one from 2020. They detailed the methodology used, which they said had ensured that the liposomes were not ruptured prior to testing. They also submitted a specification document detailing the composition of the product.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “liposomal vitamin C”, in the context of the ad, which referred to the benefits of “liposomes”, “liposomal technology”, and “liposomal encapsulation technology”, to mean that the product contained liposomes. We sought expert advice from the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC), who reviewed the evidence provided by YourZooki.
The report provided by YourZooki was based on particle tracking analysis (PTA). The fragility of liposomes meant that considerable care must be taken when preparing samples, especially when diluted in water, and that quality control measures were essential at that stage to ensure no damage to the liposomes had occurred. YourZooki’s testing had not provided evidence of quality control measures to that effect. Additionally, YourZooki’s sample had been diluted at a ratio of 1:400,000 in water, which we understood could have destabilized any liposomes present in the sample.
YourZooki’s testing had used PTA, a light scattering technique that gave information on the size and concentration of particles in suspension or solution. PTA was not suited to providing information on the structure of lipid aggregates, because neither the presence of lipid bilayers at the nanometre scale, nor the shape of nonmetric objects present in the solution, could be directly derived from PTA data. YourZooki’s evidence featured videos of the PTA process showing particles with double rings, which their report attributed to the presence of liposomes. However, given the quality control issues regarding the sample preparation, the rings were more likely diffraction rings around individual scattering objects.The analytical techniques used in YourZooki’s report had been applied without due regard to adequate experimental design to allow for potential matrix effects, sample preparation effects, and general quality control. That rendered the interpretation of the data generated difficult and the results inconclusive. We considered that the evidence was therefore insufficient to show that the product contained liposomes.
Because we had not seen conclusive evidence confirming the presence of liposomes in YourZooki’s product, we concluded that the claims “liposomal vitamin C”, and similar claims about the liposomal nature of the product, had not been substantiated and were therefore misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told YourZooki Ltd not to claim their product was “liposomal vitamin C” or make similar claims about the liposomal nature of the product unless they held adequate substantiation for those claims.