The UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has upheld a complaint made against Nomad Choice Pty Ltd in relation to a social media post advertising a “Flat Tummy Tea”. The complaint concerned the alleged “health claims” inferred from both the advert and the name of the product.

In accordance with EU Regulation No.1924/2006, health and nutrition claims made in adverts intended to promote food, supplements or drink will only be permitted if the listed health claims have been registered on the EU register. 

The ASA found that the images and the text of the post resulted in an unauthorised claim which related to health, the “health benefit” being a reduction in bloating and water weight. The Instagram post published in September by TV personality, Sophie Lasaei, purported to show a “flatter tummy” as a result of drinking the tea. The post has since been removed following the ASA’s decision. The name of the product was also deemed inappropriate by the ASA for the same reasons.

The ASA has upheld various complaints in relation to health products in recent years. In August, complaints against an advert by Bio-tiful Dairy Ltd alleging that its “Kefir” drink aided digestion and immunity were upheld. The ASA held that unauthorised claims were made about the health effects of the product and therefore the advert breached the ASA’s code.

Similarly, website Cocoalocks.com had to change an advert alleging increased hair growth, as this health claim was not listed on the EU register. 

The ASA provides some of the strictest rules in the world regarding advertising. Its comprehensive rules are further supplemented by statutory regulation in certain areas. Just one complaint can give rise to an advert being withdrawn. For example, Channel 4 was ordered to remove an advert for Haig Whiskey which featured at 20:30 after one complaint was made about audiences under the age of 18 viewing the advert. 

The rulings made in relation to “healthy allegations” could potentially impact widely across the market, given that “health and supplements” is an ever-growing industry. 

Where it is merely an advert that must be changed, other than bad press associated with the complaint, the financial impact on a company may be controlled. However, where health claims can be inferred by product names, that product will likely have to be re-branded and possibly recalled depending on where products are sold. This could be very expensive. 

Companies should therefore be careful in their branding and marketing so as to comply with the ASA codes of practice.