Weight control product ‘misleads consumers’

wendy knowler profile. INLSA WENDY KNOWLER

Ultimate Sports Nutrition’s Phedra-Cut Hardcore “aggressive weight control agent” has become the latest of its products to be found by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to be misleading consumers with marketing claims about its efficacy, which have not been substantiated.

The claims include: “Scientifically formulated to help burn fat, and crush appetite and constant cravings”, and “Delivers long-lasting explosive energy and mental focus”.

According to the ASA’s published ruling, Ultimate Sports Nutrition (USN) initially responded to a complaint by Dr Harris Steinman by saying it would respond after “forwarding to the research and development department and the directors”, but, having been given an extension to reply, the company said simply: “We have taken cognisance of the content of Dr Steinman’s complaint and will amend our advertising material to accommodate his views.”

In his complaint, Steinman argued that the claims gave consumers the impression that the product had been “scientifically formulated”, and had therefore been proven effective.

“Considering that there is not a single robust study published in a peer-reviewed publication that supports any of the claims made for the product or its ingredients, the claims are unlikely to be true, and therefore also misleading,” he said.

Usually, in cases where a company undertakes to withdraw or amend an advertising claim, the ASA Directorate accepts this and doesn’t consider the merits of the case. But it appears it has grown weary of this tactic on USN’s part.

“This is only one in a long line of such undertakings provided by the respondent,” the directorate said.

In the past nine years at least 24 rulings had been issued in respect of USN products – many of them part of the Phedra Cut range – mostly dealing with substantiation of claims, and therefore, the directorate said, the company could not “claim ignorance” of what was required to substantiate a claim. So this time, USN’s “voluntary undertaking” was not the end of the the matter.

“This matter constitutes yet another undertaking that appears to be calculated to merely sidestep adverse decisions or sanctions, and the directorate rejects this undertaking.”

In the absence of any evidence for the efficacy claims in question, the directorate found them to be unsubstantiated “and therefore likely to mislead consumers about the efficacy of the product”.

USN was instructed to withdraw the packaging of Phedra-Cut Hardcore, along with the claims in question, by mid-March, and not use them again. But that’s not all.

“Given the respondent’s apparent pattern of providing undertakings – as opposed to evidence – for its efficacy claims, the directorate will consider whether or not additional sanctions should be imposed on the respondent.”

USN was asked to respond, and the directorate will issue another ruling on the issue of sanctions soon.


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