A database that tracks dubious medical claims.
Response number: 93
Date of response: May 7, 2012
Type of response: ASA Directorate Ruling
The claims must be withdrawn and not used again
Claims dealt with in this response
Health Matters-Fat Burn / K Charleston / 19318
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Kevin Charleston Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Streamline Trading t/a Health Matters Respondent
Mr Charleston lodged a consumer complaint against the respondent's print
advertisement appearing in the Mail and Guardian during December 2011.
The advertisement, inter alia, promotes the respondent's "FATBURN" weight
loss product as "The 4 in 1 Weight Loss Solution For Best Results!!!" It
features a "BEFORE" and "AFTER" photograph of "Linda Groban" as well as what
appears to be a brief testimonial from her. In addition, it contains five
ticked boxes with the following wording:
. "NO SIDE EFFECTS"
. "ACTIVE FAT BURNER"
. "ACTIVE FAT BLOCKER"
. "APPETITE SUPPRESSANT"
. "METABOLISM ENHANCEMENT".
Below this the website www.healthmatters247.net and a telephone number "012
715 7247" is provided.
In essence, the complainant submitted that the claims highlighted above are
unsubstantiated. He explained that the respondent's website makes reference
to the substance "Opuntia ficus-indica", but that there is no evidence to
suggest that this substance or ingredient (derived from a cactus) has any
effect on weight loss.
In addition, the website refers to "Obesity", which is a term that falls
within the parameters of Appendix F. He also pointed out that neither the
print advertisement nor the website make any reference to the requirement of
a kilojoule-restricted and balanced diet as required by Appendix E of the
Finally, the complainant submitted that the testimonial used in the
advertising features a "BEFORE" and "AFTER" photo that is widely available
on the internet. As such, he questions the legitimacy of the testimonial.
RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The complainant identified the following sections of the Code as relevant:
. Section II, Clause 4.1 - Substantiation
. Section II, Clause 10 - Testimonials
. Appendix E - Advertising for slimming
. Appendix F - References to diseases
The respondent submitted that the advertising was directly copied from
information supplied by its overseas supplier. However, as the product was
not received well and proved not to be a viable business venture, it has not
embarked on any further advertising.
When asked by the Directorate whether this means that it unequivocally
undertakes to refrain from using the advertisement and claims objected to,
the respondent did not reply.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by
the respective parties.
In light of the fact that the respondent did not confirm that it would
refrain from using the advertisement and claims objected to in future, the
Directorate had no option but to proceed on the assumption that the
respondent would not. As such, the merits of the matter had to be
considered. It is also worth noting that the respondent's website
www.healthmatters247.net is very much operational and accepting orders,
which appears to contradict the submissions that this business venture was
Clause 4.1 of Section II requires verification for any direct or implied
claims that are capable of objective verification. It further specifies that
this verification should either emanate from, or be evaluated by an
independent and credible expert.
The Directorate is satisfied that the claims objected to by the complainant
are capable of objective verification in terms of Clause 4.1 of Section II.
The respondent, however, did not submit any.
Accordingly, the claims objected to are unsubstantiated and in breach of
Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
Clause 10 of Section II deals specifically with the use of testimonials in
advertising, and requires, inter alia, testimonials to be genuine, conform
to the Code, have adequate substantiation, and that signed and dated copies
of testimonials be available for inspection by the ASA.
The respondent has not addressed this and has not supplied any evidence to
suggest that the testimonial is legitimate and reflects the actual results
achieved by this person.
Accordingly, the references to "Linda Groban" and her purported weight loss
as a result of using this product are currently in contravention of Clause
10 of Section II of the Code.
Appendix E deals with advertising for slimming. It requires, inter alia,
that any dieting aids (such as this product) may not be advertised unless it
is made pertinently clear that they are ONLY effective when used in
conjunction with a kilojoule-controlled diet (refer Clause 2.3.1 of Appendix
Neither the print advertisement nor the website highlighted by the
complainant make any such statements. In fact, the overwhelming impression
created is that this product on its own would deliver such results. This is
clearly contrary to the requirements of this clause.
Similarly, Clause 2.5.1 of Appendix E requires advertisements for appetite
suppressants (which is a function this product claims to have) to explain
how they work and insist that advertisers should hold suitable evidence that
the product is safe and effective at the level of consumption suggested.
The print advertisement gives no information as to how the product
suppresses appetite. While the website does appear to give some explanation,
the respondent has not submitted any evidence of safety and efficacy as
required by this clause.
As a result, the respondent's print advertisement and website is in
contravention of the provisions of Appendix E of the Code.
Lastly, Appendix F lists a number of diseases to which reference cannot be
made unless the product is registered with the Medicines Control Council
(the MCC) and the claims approved by the MCC. One such condition listed is
"Obesity or overmass". While the Directorate notes that this term is not
used in the print advertisement, it does appear on the website. In some
instances, the references only appear when the respondent discusses the
dangers associated with obesity. However, other claims state that people
with obesity should use this product.
The respondent's advertising clearly targets people who want to lose weight
and creates an impression that the product would deliver such results. In
addition, statements such as "People with severe cases of obesity generally
use FATBURNT for about 6-12 months" clearly imply that this product is
suitable for the treatment of, or use by obese people. It therefore falls
within the parameters of Appendix F.
The respondent has not addressed this aspect of the complainant and has not
presented anything to suggest that the product is registered with or
approved by the MCC
As such, and based on the information at hand, the advertising appears to be
in contravention of the provisions of Appendix F.
In light of the above:
The respondent is instructed to withdraw its advertising and the claims
The respondent is instructed to action the withdrawal of the advertising and
relevant claims with immediate effect upon receipt of this ruling,
The respondent is instructed to ensure that the advertising and claims
objected to are withdrawn within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of
the Procedural Guide, and
The respondent is instructed to refrain from using the advertising and the
claims objected to again in future.
The complaint is upheld, and the respondent's attention is drawn to the
provisions of Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide, which effectively
requires offending advertising to be removed from any media in which it
appears irrespective of whether or not the complainant specifically referred
to such media.