Monday, 29 March 2010

*Synergy Natural - blue-green sludge salesmen

Spirulina is the common name for two species of microscopic algae (Arthrospira maxima and Arthrospira platensis) that are rich in proteins, fatty acids, minerals and (some) vitamins - providing you're prepared to consume them in their natural state.

UPDATE, 30 Jun: ASA write to confirm the advertisers have agreed to remove the claims that were the subject of the complaint. Good for them!

Studies have demonstrated some positive effects in humans, but unfortunately, desperate salesmen are often prone to overstating the benefits.

Usual ASA complaint follows.

"I write to complain about an advert in “Natural Health" Magazine (April 2010, page 104), which promotes "Spirulina" vitamin supplements.

I suspect that the advert may be in breach of two sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) code.

I have submitted a scan of the advert. I can provide an original copy of the advert by post, if required.

1. The CAP Code, Section 3.1, states "Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation."

2. The CAP Code, Section 50.1, states "Medical and scientific claims made about beauty and health-related products should be backed by evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people..."

3. I challenge whether the advertiser holds documentary evidence to prove any of the following claims, and I challenge whether the claims are backed by evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people:

(i) The claim that vitamin supplements aren't digested easily because they are made synthentically

(ii) The implied claim that the Spirulina tablets contain as much nutritional value as naturally-occuring spirulina algae (i.e. the species Arthrospira maxima and Arthrospira platensis)

(iii) The implied claim that the Spirulina tablets (as distinct from naturally-occuring spirulina algae) are the "purest, most natural addition you can make to your diet"

(iv) The claim that Spirulina tablets can provide "better weight control", give its users "more energy" and help them "look great"

(v) The implied claim ("A single teaspoonful (or 6 tablets) contains a powerhouse of over 100 vitamins") that Spirulina tablets contain Vitamin B12

(vi) The claim that "in nutritional terms" Spirulina tablets are "equivalent to 3 servings of vegetables"

(vii) The claim that Spirulina tablets are "the purest most potent Spirulina you can get", compared to (for example) naturally-occuring spirulina algae

4. I confirm that I have no connections with the advertiser, with the magazine, or with the publishing and alternative medicine industries in general. I confirm that I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser or the magazine.

5. I confirm that I am happy to be identified as the complainant."

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