ASA rules skin ads blemished by “spots” reference

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Spot the problem? You can't because this is the amended version of 'help:clear skin'
Spot the problem? You can't because this is the amended version of 'help:clear skin'

Related tags: Nutrition

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled against a UK start-up for making unauthorised medicinal claims about a lactoferrin-based skin health supplement.

The ASA said a national press advert headlined "help: get the better of spots with milk protein" ​was unauthorised as the milk protein lactoferrin was a food ingredient and did not possess the evidence to make the medicinal claims.

Jules Birch, founder and managing director of the company in question, Works With Water Nutraceuticals Ltd, told NutraIngredients this morning that the company completely abided by the ruling and had already made “costly changes”​ to its packaging and marketing materials.

Spots bad, blemishes good

“It’s a frustrating and confusing time because there are a lot of grey areas but the ASA were very helpful,” ​she said. “It basically came down to the fact that the use of the word ‘spots’ was deemed medicinal, whereas ‘blemishes’ was not, so we have changed things accordingly.”

She said her company had sent references to 25 lactoferrin-skin health studies but these had not been assessed by the ASA because the issue at hand was whether or not the claim wording made them medicinal.

On-product messaging states ‘help: clear skin’ can, “help clear acne and maintain a healthy complexion”.

The product comes in sachets and containing 100mg of milk protein, 0.25g of aloe vera extract and 3.65g of oligofructose.

The Works With Water Nutraceuticals Ltd website contains an endorsement from UK nutritionist, Dr Sarah Brewer, that lactoferrin can improve skin inflammation.

The website continues to bare reference to ‘spots’, an area the ASA’s Matt Wilson acknowledged was currently beyond its remit, but would be from March 1 next year, when it will begin to police communications in all media.

The site states: help: clear skin​ contains Praventin, a clinically proven​ bioactive protein, rich in lactoferrin​, which has been shown to reduce the development of the bacteria responsible for many skin impurities, helping to prevent the formation of blemishes and spots due to its antimicrobial effects.”

Birch said these statements had been agreed by its regulatory counsel, along with its lactoferrin supplier, DKSH.

In terms of the more general premise of linking lactoferrin and skin health, Birch said the advice hinged on the fact that all article 13.1 generic health claim opinions had not yet been processed and would not be adopted into EU law books until at least the end of 2011.

She said claims being made for the company’s cholesterol (beta-glucans) and blood pressure (peptides) products had not been challenged.

In its ruling the ASA said: “We considered that the claims ‘help: get the better of spots with milk protein’, ‘help reduce the inflammation of spots and the bacteria that cause them’ and ‘help clear acne’ were medicinal claims, because they claimed to restore and correct physiological function in the skin. Because we understood that medicinal claims for foods were not permitted under Schedule 6 of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.”

These matters and more will be discussed at the second NutraIngredients Health Claims 2010 conference to be held in Brussels on December 1. The conference will deconstruct the latest article 13.1 claim opinions, hear first-hand experience from players like Kellogg’s, outline regulation-coping marketing strategies, and feature comparison with the US claims system from leading stateside industry figure, Dr Andrew Shao.

For more details click here.

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