The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has upheld a number of complaints about a company advertising CBD oil after the adverts were found to have made ‘misleading’ claims about the health benefits of CBD oil.
A 48-minute teleshopping presentation for ProLife CBD Oils, seen on the Gemporia television channel on 22nd May 2021, featured a presenter from Gemporia and one of the co-founders from ProLife CBD. Throughout the advert they made a number of claims about the health benefits of the products and referenced that the products were registered with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Two complainants challenged whether the claims that:
1. ProLife CBD Oil was effective for treating or helping with the conditions and illnesses referenced in the advert stated or implied that a food prevented, treated or cured human disease; and
2. CBD oil “helps with: General well-being” and “helps your immune system” were health claims that complied with the Code.
3. The ASA challenged whether the presentation misleadingly implied that ProLife CBD Oils were approved by the Food Standards Agency.
Gemporia Ltd said they were not able to substantiate the first two claims or demonstrate that they were authorised claims in the Great Britain nutrition and health claims (NHC) Register (the NHC Register).
Gemporia Ltd said they had understood that because a Novel Foods application had been submitted to the FSA, the products were allowed to be marketed and any references made in relation to this were based on that assumption, but that they had misunderstood the context.
They acknowledged that they had breached the Code on all issues and said their future advertising would adhere to the Code.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the presentation that ProLife CBD oils could treat or help with all the conditions that were mentioned, including those that appeared on the two presentation slides, in the testimonials and those mentioned by the presenters. We concluded the claims implied the product, a food, prevented, treated or cured human disease, which was prohibited under the Code.
On that point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 13.6 and 13.6.2 (Food, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims).
A representative of the ASA commented:
“Only health claims authorised on the NHC Register could be made in ads promoting foods or food supplements. Marketers must also ensure that the advertised food or food supplement met the conditions of use associated with the authorised health claim. Health claims were defined as those that stated, suggested or implied a relationship between a food or ingredient, and health.
“We considered viewers would understand the claim “helps your immune system” to mean that the CBD in the product would help with the effective functioning of the immune system. The claim was therefore a specific health claim about the benefits of CBD, for the purposes of the Code, which must be authorised on the NHC Register. However, there were no health claims relating to CBD authorised on the NHC Register and the claim therefore breached the Code.
“We considered the claim “Helps with: General well-being” to be a reference to the general benefits of CBD for health-related wellbeing. It was therefore a general health claim that needed to be accompanied by a specific authorised health claim relating to CBD. However, because there were no authorised health claims for CBD, that claim also breached the Code.
“On that point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 13.4 13.4.2 13.4.3 (Food, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims) and 13.7.1 (Vitamins, minerals and other food supplements).
“The BCAP Code required that ads must not claim that the advertised product had been approved, endorsed or authorised by any person or body if it had not or without complying with the terms of the approval, endorsement or authorisation.
“We considered consumers would understand the references made in the ad about the Novel Foods Act and ProLife CBD Oils being FSA “registered” to mean that ProLife CBD Oils had gone through the full FSA approval process required for CBD products and were authorised novel foods. We also considered consumers would understand the claims made in the ad that CBD products must be of a certain standard and quality in order to be FSA “registered” to mean that novel food authorisation was granted based on those criteria only. We further considered that consumers would understand the claims that ProLife CBD Oils were the “best standard” and “had always had the quality” to mean they had been authorised as novel foods based on this criteria alone. We considered that the ad implied that the products were approved, endorsed or authorised by the FSA.We acknowledged that novel food applications had been submitted to the FSA for the advertised ProLife CBD Oils and that the products were therefore allowed to be on the market. However, we understood that their applications were still under review and therefore the products were not yet authorised novel foods. We also understood that a dossier of information needed to be submitted when applying for novel food authorisation, and that the certificate of analysis and stability reporting testing was only one part of that. The primary objective of the novel food authorisation process was to establish that foods that had not previously been commonly used for human consumption were safe for that purpose, rather than to assess the ‘quality’ of the product as consumers would interpret that claim in the ad.
“Because the products were still under review by the FSA and the novel foods application process considered factors other than the quality of the product, we concluded the ad misrepresented the requirements for novel foods authorisation and misleadingly implied the ProLife CBD Oil products were approved, endorsed or authorised by the FSA.
“On that point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.47 (Endorsements and testimonials).
“We told Gemporia Ltd to ensure that any general health claims made in their future presentations were accompanied by a specific authorised health claim, and that specific health claims were authorised on the NHC Register. We told them to ensure that their future presentations did not state or imply that their food supplements could prevent, treat or cure human disease. We also told them not to state or imply that ProLife CBD Oils were endorsed, approved or authorised by the FSA and to not misrepresent the requirements for a novel food authorisation.”
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