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Posted 30 October 2016
A consumer laid a complaint against the claims for Healthy Nursing Tea, which claims among other, “Enhance the quality and quantity of your breast milk production while nursing …”, that it delivers “… a nutrient rich blend of vitamins and minerals through you and your milk …”, that it is “… infused with calming ingredients …” and that “This ancient formula has been used for centuries to boost the lactation and to sooth the digestive system in both mother and child”.
The ASA declined to make a ruling pointing out that “The objection, which is based on an incorrect assumption that advertising is required to list (cite) specific scientific reference material, therefore does not accord with the provisions of the Code”.
The product contains: Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel); Anise Seeds and Nettle Leaf Tea, “all of which are categorised as “Galactagogues”, known to promote lactation in humans” . according to the manufacturers.
So are the claims valid?
What does the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) have to say about these ingredients?
Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel): NMCD states that although it is used for promoting lactation, that there is no evidence to confirm this. In fact, it states this:
LACTATION: POSSIBLY UNSAFE …when used orally by breast-feeding mothers. Case reports have linked consumption of an herbal tea containing fennel to neurotoxicity in two breast-feeding infants (16744).
Anise Seed: NMCD states that although it is used for promoting lactation, that there is no evidence to confirm this.
Nettle Leaf: NMCD does not list promoting lactation as a use. In fact, it states:
LACTATION: Insufficient reliable information available; avoid using.
PubMed, lists a recent review of herbal galactogogues, which makes these points:
“To augment breast milk production, a substantial number of women turn to herbal galactogogues despite the limited scientific evidence of their efficacy and safety. We conducted a systematic review of published literature to evaluate the efficacy of herbal galactogogues. PubMed was searched from inception to October 2012 using an iterative search process that proceeded from broad categories to specific herbs. Manuscript references were also reviewed. Only experimental studies with objective outcome measures were included. Six trials met our search criteria. Using an adapted version of the CONSORT checklist, each trial was evaluated for potential sources of bias in design and reporting. Shatavari, torbangun, fenugreek, milk thistle, and a Japanese herbal medication were the 5 herbal preparations studied. Five trials found an increase in breast milk production. Several limitations exist that affect the validity of the trial results, including small sample size, insufficient randomization methods, poorly defined eligibility criteria, use of poly-herbal interventions, and variable breastfeeding practices among enrolled subjects. Given the insufficiency of evidence from these trials, no recommendation is made for the use of herbs as galactogogues. Well-designed and well-conducted clinical trials that address the above limitations are necessary to generate a body of evidence as a basis for recommendations regarding herbal galactogogues”.
Mortel M, Mehta SD. Systematic review of the efficacy of herbal galactogogues. J Hum Lact. 2013 May;29(2):154-62.
Healthy Nursing Tea / M Hendricks / 2016-4603F
Ruling of the: ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
MS MARISA HENDRICKS Complainant(s)/Appellant(s) RETAIL FUSION (PTY) LTD t/a SLV&CO Respondent
25 October 2016
Ms Hendricks lodged a consumer complaint against the internet advertisement promoting a “Secrets of Tea” product called “Healthy Nursing Tea” product which was advertised on www.takealot.com and on Facebook.
The Takealot advertisement states, inter alia, that the product will “Enhance the quality and quantity of your breast milk production while nursing …”, that it delivers “… a nutrient rich blend of vitamins and minerals through you and your milk …”, that it is “… infused with calming ingredients …” and that “This ancient formula has been used for centuries to boost the lactation and to sooth the digestive system in both mother and child”.
The main benefits are listed as:
“Enhance milk availability*”,
“Sooth digestive issues in mom and baby*”, “Provide nutritive vitamins & minerals*”.
Similar claims also appear on the respondent’s Facebook page dedicated to this product.
The complainant referred to the claim that “Healthy Nursing tea is a natural and organic tea with no caffeine and no preservatives. Designed to help nursing mothers increase breastmilk production it’s also infused with calming ingredients to alleviate mom’s stress too”.
She submitted that “I believe this is a false claim and that it will not influence breast milk production. There are no studies cited to prove that the tea does in fact increase milk supply”.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint the following claims were identified as relevant:
Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation
Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims
The respondent submitted that the product’s ingredients are Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel); Anise Seeds and Nettle Leaf Tea, all of which are categorised as “Galactagogues”, known to promote lactation in humans. It explained that these are ingredients that are supported by La Leche League, a major proponent of breast feeding, and that scientific studies have shown the benefits of natural Galactagogues in relation to increasing milk supply.
The point was made that other local and international examples of advertising for similar products also do not cite specific studies.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
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. The verification provided needs to specifically verify the exact claims used for the product as a whole. In the case of survey-type data, the claims have to be verified by a SAMRA accredited entity.
Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code states, “Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation which, directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity, inaccuracy, exaggerated claim or otherwise, is likely to mislead the consumer”.
The complainant’s basis for objection seems to be that the advertising does not specifically list any studies that support its claims. It is significant to note, however, that the provisions of the Code relevant to this dispute do not expect advertisers to list their scientific sources. It merely requires them to have scientific evidence for its claims. The only exception to this is if the research relied on was conducted by a publication, which does not appear to be the case here.
In this instance, the respondent referred to an abstract of a study done on “The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life”, which is available online via the URL https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21261516?dopt=Abstract.
In the absence of anything that suggests that the study (or studies) relied on by the respondent have been scrutinised and are found wanting, the Directorate has no reason to consider the veracity of the respondent’s claims at this point in time.
The objection, which is based on an incorrect assumption that advertising is required to list (cite) specific scientific reference material, therefore does not accord with the provisions of the Code.
The basis of objecting therefore falls away, and the ASA Directorate has no need to consider whether or not the respondent’s advertising is substantiated and/or misleading at this time.