The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint alleging that PepsiCo International Ltd. t/a Naked Juice made antioxidant health claims on its Website that were unauthorized by the EU Register of Nutrition and Health Claims for Foods (the EU Register). According to ASA, Naked Juice argued that health claim guidance issued by the European Commission failed to establish whether the term “antioxidant”“was a specific health claim or a non-specific, general health claim.” As a result, the company considered that the term was a non-specific, general health claim, “and it was therefore permissible to use it, provided it was accompanied by a specific health claim which was authorized on the EU Register” – in this case, specific claims about the Vitamin C contents of the “Green Machine” and “Mango Machine” smoothies singled out in the complaint.
But ASA disagreed with this reasoning, ultimately concluding that both the commission’s and the U.K. Department of Health’s guidance documents “were unequivocal in setting out that a claim that a food contained antioxidants was an example of a health claim which must be authorized on the EU Register.”To this end, ASA ruled that “the claims ‘ANTIOXIDANT’ and ‘ANTIOXIDANT FAMILY’ were not references to a general, non-specific benefit of the product for overall health, but were specific health claims, because the terms ‘antioxidant’ referred to the function of a substance on the body.” It also rejected the claim, “Juice Smoothies loaded with nature’s elite fighting force to defend your body against free radicals (those nasty little molecules that attack your cells and could have an impact on your overall health),” for the same reason.
In addition, ASA took issue with the rewording of Naked Juice’s Vitamin C health claims, noting that the guidance documents cited by Naked Juice “warned against picking sentences or phrases from an EFSA [European Food Safety Authority] opinion when adapting the wording of an authorized claim, because it could increase the risk of changing the meaning of the claim.”The ruling determined that the reworded claims about juice smoothies not only exaggerated the authorized health claims, but related to the product itself rather than a nutrient, substance, food, or food category as required by EFSA. The Website’s antioxidant claims were therefore deemed in breach of adver- tising codes, and Naked Juice was instructed “to ensure that they retained the meaning of, and did not exaggerate, any authorized health claims if they reworded them to aid consumer understanding.”