The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld three challenges to marketing claims made by Santa Monica, California-based Neurobrands LLC about its line of “Neuro” beverages. Lodged in August 2011 before Commission Regulation (EU) No. 432/21012 established a list of permitted health claims for foods, the complainants argued that the claims appearing on Neurobrands’ Website and posters were misleading, unsubstantiated and “misleadingly implied that a widespread vitamin D deficiency in women existed and that the product NeuroSun could treat that deficiency.” Upholding the three complaints, ASA barred the advertisements and advised Neurobrands “to seek advice before making future health and nutritional claims for foods, given the transitional period following the Regulations coming into force.”

According to ASA, Neurobrands defended the “mental performance” claim for its NeuroSonic beverage by citing the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) “positive opinions” for caffeine and vitamin B12 with regard to “mental functions,” while noting that the “vitamin D in every bottle” claim for NeuroSun “was an authorized nutritional claim” under European Commission (EC) regulations. The company further noted that it made no claims about vitamin D “deficiency” in its advertising, opting instead for the term “insufficiency” to describe “a state of suboptimal vitamin D status not indicative of deficiency.” It also offered scientific evidence to support similar functional claims used for its other products.

ASA ultimately concluded, however, that EFSA’s opinion linking caffeine to “increased alertness” and “increased attention” did not generally support NeuroSonic’s “DRINK SMARTER” tagline nor its “mental performance” claim, which the authority dubbed “misleading.” The ruling also considered the scientific evidence insufficient to support the claims made for NeuroBliss (“DRINK HAPPIER… mood enhancement”), NeuroSport (“DRINK STRONGER… replenishment in every bottle”) and NeuroTrim (“DRINK LEANER… weight loss support”).

Although ASA agreed that NeuroSun’s “DRINK SUNNIER… vitamin D in every bottle” claims were not necessarily problematic, the ruling nevertheless found that Neurobrand’s additional claims linking vitamin D to mood enhancement were misleading and that consumers could misinterpret the claim that “50% of women had insufficient vitamin D levels… to mean that there was a widespread vitamin D deficiency.” As a result, ASA concluded that NeuroSun’s advertisement breached Committee of Advertising Practice codes because the two Vitamin D claims that “appeared side by side could be seen as advocating the drink as a means of treating that deficiency.”