ASA rules against Dis-Chem’s Gold Weight Loss Formula

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Posted 28 February 2012

A consumer lodged a complaint against Dis-Chem Pharmacies’ packaging of its Dis-Chem Gold Herbal Weight Loss Formula. The label describes the product as a “HERBAL WEIGHT LOSS FORMULA” and claims that it is “Fast acting with Hoodia & Slimaluma®”.

The complainant submitted, in essence, that there is insufficient evidence to support the individual ingredients or the combination thereof weight loss claims made for the product. The respondent also raised concerns regarding the name of the product as he is of the opinion that it implies that the product has the ability to induce weight loss, which is not true. In addition the first ever peer-reviewed study on Hoodia has shown that it has no effect on weight-loss or appetite suppression.

The ASA ruled in favour of the complainant, agreeing that the evidence to support the claims are insufficient.


Gold Weight Loss Formula / HA Steinman / 18876
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Dis-Chem Pharmacies (Pty) Ltd Respondent


27 Feb 2012
http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=5969


Doctor Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against Dis-Chem Pharmacies’ packaging of its Dis-Chem Gold Herbal Weight Loss Formula. 

The label describes the product as a “HERBAL WEIGHT LOSS FORMULA” and claims that it is “Fast acting with Hoodia & Slimaluma®”.

COMPLAINT
The complainant submitted, in essence, that there is insufficient evidence to support the individual ingredients or the combination thereof weight loss claims made for the product. The respondent also raised concerns regarding the name of the product as he is of the opinion that it implies that the product has the ability to induce weight loss, which is not true.

In addition to this, the complainant noted that not all the ingredients are “Herbal”, and that the first ever peer-reviewed study on Hoodia has shown that it has no effect on weight-loss or appetite suppression.

RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The complainant identified Clause 4.1 of Section II (Substantiation) of the Code as relevant.

RESPONSE
The respondent submitted, inter alia, that based on the scientific research and reports on the active ingredient of the product it believes that the product is bona fide.

It added that it reviews its product labels on a regular basis and will assess the label in question and if necessary make changes to comply with the Consumer Protection Act and ensure that the product label is appropriate to the product. Finally, the respondent made the point that it believes that the product cannot be flawed, based on “the extensive research that has been done on the product to substantiate its active ingredient”.

It concluded that the complaint (one of a number of complaints received from the complainant) is unfair and unfounded.

The respondent also submitted the following documentation:

An untitled and unreferenced document dealing with the efficacy of Hoodia Gordoni, Guarana and Kola Nut.

A research document for SlimalumaTM, titled “Safety Review By Dr Harry Preuss”, Georgetown University Medical Centre, Washington DC. The document appears to emanate from and belong to Gencor Pacific Inc.

An article titled “Effect of Caralluma Fimbriata extract on appetite, food intake and anthropometry in adult Indian men and women”, which was published in “Appetite” during 2006.

A document from St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Institute of Population Health and Clinical research titled “Clinical Trial – Use of Caralluma fimbriata extract to reduce weight”.

A document titled “Caralluma Fimbriata in the Treatment of Obesity” by “Ronald M. Lawrence and Suneeta Choudhary” from the Western Geriatric Research Institute, Los Angeles, California, United States.

Another untitled and unreferenced document stating, inter alia, as follows:

“Product Name [sic] is a new age appetite suppressant free of ephedrine Assists with promoting weight loss with a calorie restricted diet
The combination of Hoodia and Slimaluma TM with Kola nut provides an effective means of assisting the reduction of appetite
The combination of Kola nut, Chromium Polynicotinate and Guarana provides the energy needed whilst dieting and assists with the reduction of sugar cravings”

The document then comments briefly on Slimaluma, Guarana, Kola nuts, Hoodia gordonii and Chromium Polynicotinate.

I did not mention in my complaint that in 2010, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), also concluded that there was insufficient evidence for Caralluma fimbriata Slimaluma: “The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of the ethanol-water extract of Caralluma fimbriata Slimaluma® and a reduction in body weight.” http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1604. htm


ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.

Considering that the product name “GOLD HERBAL WEIGHT LOSS FORMULA” implies weight loss capabilities, the respondent should have adequate substantiation for this claim.

Clause 4.1 of Section II states, inter alia, that an advertiser must hold documentary evidence to support all claims that are capable of objective substantiation. In addition, it clarifies that such documentary evidence shall emanate from or be evaluated by an independent and credible expert in the particular field to which the claims relate.

It is also trite that the Directorate requires unequivocal, product-specific verification,
because the claims are made for the product as a whole and consumers are only able to buy the complete product.

While the product packaging appears to indicate that the product contains the ingredients that are individually the subject matter of the submitted research documentation, there is nothing before the Directorate to indicate that there was product-specific research or that product-specific verification exists. The respondent has also not submitted independent research documents as evidence that the ingredients as mentioned on the packaging are effective in the dosage used in the product (and consumed by consumers), and that the said ingredients do not also in some way contra-indicate each other.

Given this the Directorate cannot accept the respondent’s substantiation at this time, as it does not appear to confirm unequivocally that the claims made on the packaging are true for the product as a whole, when used at the recommended dose.

In light of this, the claim that this product is a “HERBAL WEIGHT LOSS FORMULA” is currently unsubstantiated and in breach of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.

Given the above:

The claim “HERBAL WEIGHT LOSS FORMULA” and any references to weight loss made for this product must be withdrawn;

The process to withdraw these claims must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling;

The withdrawal of these claims must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide;

These claims may not be used again in their current format.

The respondent’s attention is drawn to Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide.

The complaint is upheld.


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