The UK’s advertising regulator has ruled that a health food e-tailer’s use of the term ‘weight loss’ as a site navigation category broke advertising laws. The ruling could lead to other health food retailers being similarly challenged in future.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) challenged whether the product category headings ‘Weight Loss’ and ‘Weight Loss Products’ appearing on the www.proteinworld.comwebsite were health claims, therefore indicating that all of the products listed under the two headings had relevant health claims authorisations under the terms of the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation.
The ASA says that Protein World failed to respond to its requests for information on the complaint. So the Authority sought the views of four industry bodies –  t­he Council for Responsible Nutrition UK, the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance, the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association, and the Proprietary Association of Great Britain.
All of the trade bodies consulted said that category ‘signposting’ was an important orientation tool for consumers. CRN argued that removing them could potentially lead to consumer harm, while ESSNA said that it did not believe that statements about weight loss and slimming in a generic category heading made a claim about the function of products within the category.
But the ASA was unconvinced, deciding that, in its view, a statement about weight loss wouldbe understood as a claim about the function of the products contained within the category, which was in turn “likely to influence a consumer’s decision to purchase those products”. It therefore took the view that products listed under the category would have to be supported by authorised claims contained on the EU Register.
In the absence of evidence from Protein World that the 44 products listed under its ‘Weight Loss’ category contained ingredients for which there was an authorised health claim relating to weight loss, the ASA ruled that the category was in breach of the advertising code.
The Authority told Protein World that the ad must not appear again in its current form, and to ensure it did not place food supplements or food products in the ‘Weight Loss’ category unless it “held evidence that those products were capable of carrying an equivalent health claim that was authorised on the EU Register”.
Photo: Protein World’s home page