Two complainants challenged whether the claim could be substantiated.
One advert featured a woman swimming, with the on-screen text: ‘Real People. Real Results ... Isabelle, 46 years old ... Likes swimming and chatting.”
Later in the advert, a voice-over stated: “When my doctor told me that my cholesterol was high I started using clinically proven Flora pro-activ, now it’s considerably lower.” The on-screen text stated: ’Flora pro-activ contains plant sterols. A daily consumption of 1.5–2.4g of plant sterols can lower cholesterol by 7–10% in two to three weeks as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Individual results may vary.’
‘No other food lowers cholesterol more’
Following voice-overs claimed: “The plant sterols in Flora pro-activ are clinically proven to significantly lower cholesterol” and “No other food lowers cholesterol more.”
Unilever said there were no other foods or ingredients on the market with significant, scientifically proven cholesterol-lowering effects. This fact substantiated the claim: ‘No other food lowers cholesterol more. than Flora pro-activ, it argued.
The manufacturer claimed it was well known that high cholesterol was a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. Its target audience was a particular group of consumers who were interested in cholesterol and health. While recognising that the full authorised claim included the words: ’High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease,’ it said this was unnecessary, based on the average consumer’s understanding.
Unilever’s advertising agency Clearcast said its nutrition consultant believed the claim was substantiated by firm evidence. It was confident that the on-screen text, which outlined the size of the effect over a specified time, qualified the claim in line with the conditions of use of the relevant authorised claim.
But the ASA noted that the statement: ‘No other food lowers cholesterol more,’ was not mentioned in the claim’s authorisation for the disease risk reduction claim for plant sterols.
“We considered that this was a specific health claim; therefore it could only be made if it was listed as authorised on the EU register,” said the ASA. “We noted the scientific evidence submitted by Unilever, but because the claim ‘No other food lowers cholesterol more.’ was not listed as authorised on the EU register, we considered that the inclusion of that statement was in breach of the [advertising] code.”
The adverts breached the code because the wording of the authorised health claim omitted important information and because they contained a comparative claim that was not justified by the claims authorisation or listed as a separate authorised claim.
Read the full ruling here.