The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) recently requested that the National Advertising Division (NAD) reopen its 1994 challenge of advertising claims made in connection with Citrucel, on the basis that a shift in the underlying science contradicted the NAD’s earlier decision. In 1994, the NAD determined that SmithKline Beecham could support its claim that Citrucel “doesn’t produce excess gas” as compared to “all other bulk fibers” provided that it disclosed the claims were based on “laboratory results, not human testing.” However, upon renewed prompting by P&G, the NAD determined that recent human studies directly related to the digestion of fiber in the human were sufficient to constitute “extraordinary circumstances” under the NAD/NARB procedures and justified reopening the case. Notably, the NAD had previously rejected a request to reopen the case when the request was based solely on new lab data.

In the reopened case, the NAD determined that GSK Consumer Health (GSK), the current manufacturer of Citrucel, established a reasonable basis for its claim that “Citrucel (but not Metamucil) is “non-fermentable,” but recommended that GSK discontinue its “Citrucel (but not Metamucil) doesn’t cause excess gas” in comparison to Metamucil because the comparison made it appear that Metamucil always causes excess gas. The NAD also recommended that GSK discontinue the claim “the only fiber for regularity that won’t cause excess gas” even with the lab testing disclaimer, because the statement makes it appear (falsely) that Citrucel is the only product on the market made with methylcellulose.

TIP: Advertisers should ensure that advertising claims are periodically updated and substantiation is renewed, especially when new scientific developments may affect the prior substantiation used.