Immunadue – ASA ruling, again.

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Posted 07 September 2016

ImmunadueDr Eyal lodged a consumer complaint with the ASA against a radio commercial that was broadcast on Jacaranda FM during July.

The commercial states as follows:

“7.2; the most important number in your life, because 7.2 is the ideal pH balance for your body. Drop below 7.2 through stress and poor diet and you’re vulnerable to certain cancers, diabetes, cholesterol, arthritis. But by taking Immunadue each day you can restore your pH balance. Get back to 7.2 with Immunadue. The only natural, non chemical multivitamin to help balance your pH levels each day. Immunadue the meaning of life”.

The complainant submitted that the commercial makes numerous false claims, in particular that the product will normalise the body’s pH levels. It also incorrectly quotes the optimal pH level and mentions that the product is clinically proven, all of which are untrue and contradicted by prestigious medical journals.

The owners offered a nonsense response. The ASA noted: “The Directorate also notes, with some concern, that this is the second adverse ruling against the respondent in less than three months, for similar claims made in relation to the same product (refer  Immunadue / B Linde / 2016-3308F (28 June 2016) for additional context)” and “As both the previous ruling and this one dealt with the issue of substantiation, the respondent is no longer able to claim ignorance in this regard” and ruled against Immunadue.

IMMUNADUE HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS / A EYAL / 2016-4243F

Ruling of the: ASA Directorate

In the matter between:

DR ARIAL EYAL Complainant(s)/Appellant(s) STAR CHOICE TRADING 202 (PTY) LTD Respondent

31 August 2016

http://www.asasa.org.za/rulings/immunadue-healthsupplements-aeyal-2016-4243f

Dr Eyal lodged a consumer complaint against a radio commercial that was broadcast on Jacaranda FM during July.

The commercial states as follows:

“7.2; the most important number in your life, because 7.2 is the ideal pH balance for your body. Drop below 7.2 through stress and poor diet and you’re vulnerable to certain cancers, diabetes, cholesterol, arthritis. But by taking Immunadue each day you can restore your pH balance. Get back to 7.2 with Immunadue. The only natural, non chemical multivitamin to help balance your pH levels each day. Immunadue the meaning of life”.

COMPLAINT

The complainant submitted that the commercial makes numerous false claims, in particular that the product will normalise the body’s pH levels. It also incorrectly quotes the optimal pH level and mentions that the product is clinically proven, all of which are untrue and contradicted by prestigious medical journals.

RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

In light of the complaint the following clauses of the Code were taken into account:

Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation

Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims

RESPONSE

The respondent initially requested an opportunity to meet and discuss the scientific basis for its claims with the complainant. However, subsequent to the complainant indicating his willingness to do so, the respondent submitted that it has “… decided not to publicaly [sic] argue the effectiveness of the product with the … complainant …”

It submitted documentation and argued that the decision to refer to the ideal pH level as 7.2 was taken on the basis that most medical evidence indicates a low watermark of 7.0 and a high watermark of 7.4. Most literature lists 7.3 as the ideal pH level.

If the pH drops below 7.3 certain ailments occur and are detected, this is the essence of its commercial. The reference to 7.2 as a low water mark is the fatal depression point where diseases have already kicked in and are detected.

It emphasised the findings by, inter alia, “Tori Huson Naturopath”, “Dr Michelle Schoffro Cook”, “Suzanne Allen, Kristen Cherney and Dr Elizabeth Boskey” which linked low pH levels to certain diseases, and / or argued that certain herbs and minerals may help normalise pH levels.

It requested that it would welcome the opportunity for a “proper trial … where supporting evidence can be presented in support of the actual averments in the advertisement” and outlined its history in terms of acquiring the brand.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

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

Preliminary issue

The respondent contended that, should the matter be decided on the merits, it would elect to have the matter adjudicated by means of a “proper trial where evidence can be presented” in support of its claims.

The Directorate advised the respondent that it was tasked with considering the merits of the matter, and that the respondent should submit any supporting documentation it wishes to rely on to the Directorate. It should also be noted that the initial correspondence addressed to the respondent on 27 July 2016 noted, inter alia, that:

“We wish to afford you an opportunity to respond to the complaint before the ASA considers the objection.  Accordingly we would appreciate it if you could consider the complaint and furnish us with your written comments by close of business …”

“After the stipulated deadline, the ASA Directorate may consider the alleged breaches of the Code by investigating and ruling on the matter.  Should the Directorate rule on the matter, the relevant information and documentation as submitted at the time by the respective parties will be considered …”

“Bearing in mind that the Directorate will consider the matter after the deadline stipulated, your assistance and co-operation in submitting a response timeously will be appreciated”.

In addition to again confirming that it would rule on the complaint, the Directorate provided copies of the provisions of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code, and attached copies of earlier ASA rulings on this product for the respondent’s benefit.

In response, the respondent referred to its earlier submissions, and confirmed that “We do not intend to submit any further documents in support of the said advertisement”.

Given this, the Directorate is satisfied that it is in a position to rule and determine whether the respondent has submitted adequate substantiation for the claims made in its commercial.

Substantiation

Clause 4.1 of Section II states, inter alia, that advertisers should hold documentation on-hand to substantiate all claims that are capable of objective verification. It further requires that such substantiation emanate from, or be evaluated by an independent, credible expert in the field to which the claims relate.

Because the ASA is not a technical expert body, Clause 4.1 of Section II requires it to rely on the opinion from an “independent, credible expert”. Should the Directorate be satisfied that the relevant person or entity is indeed independent, credible and an expert in the field to which the claims relate, the Directorate will consider whether or not the expert confirms the claims in question as valid for the product as a whole.

The respondent submitted various documents, including extracts from a book titled “The Ultimate Ph Solution: Balance your body chemistry to prevent disease and lose weight” by Dr Michelle Schoffro Cook, extracts taken from websites like http://altered-states.net and http://www.drkelley.info/2014/04/02/ph-balance-the-foundation-of-health/ and reviews of the possible benefits of an alkaline diet. It also provided the Directorate with articles from Dr Susan E Brown, Wikipedia, and documentation relating to studies done on pH levels, a plant called “Sutherlandia frutescens” and its impact on, inter alia, diabetes and HIV and tumours.

However, as was the case in Immunadue / B Linde / 2016-3308F (28 June 2016), which also pertained to the respondent’s marketing; not one of these sources appear to relate to the respondent’s product. In addition, the respondent has not submitted anything to show that its sources can be regarded as credible experts in the field to which the claims relate.

In order for the claims to be regarded as valid, the respondent has an onus to show that consuming its product at the recommended dose will restore pH levels as claimed. It has not done so.

The Directorate therefore cannot accept such documentation as substantiation for the advertised claims. Accordingly, the information supplied does not comply with the requirements of Clause 4.1 of Section II, and can therefore not be accepted as substantiation for the claims made.

The Directorate also notes, with some concern, that this is the second adverse ruling against the respondent in less than three months, for similar claims made in relation to the same product (refer  Immunadue / B Linde / 2016-3308F (28 June 2016) for additional context).

As both the previous ruling and this one dealt with the issue of substantiation, the respondent is no longer able to claim ignorance in this regard. The provisions of Clause 4.1 of Section II are pertinently clear, and the respondent is encouraged to ensure that its future advertising complies with these provisions. Failure to do so may result in additional adverse rulings, which, in turn, may result in additional sanctions being imposed on the respondent in accordance with Clause 14 of the Procedural Guide.

In light of the above, the claims in the commercial are currently unsubstantiated and in breach of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.

The respondent is therefore required to:

Withdraw the commercial in its current format; The process of withdrawing the commercial must be actioned with immediate effect; The process of withdrawing the commercial must be completed within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and The advertising may not be used again in its current format in the future.

The complaint is upheld.

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3 Responses to Immunadue – ASA ruling, again.

  1. Pieter 9 September, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

    Has this product been registered with the MCC, as part of the attempts / roadmap to control CAMS?

    • Harris 9 September, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

      @Pieter
      This product has not been registered yet. Whether they have applied for registration I do not know. Of course, an application does not suggest that registration will be approved.

  2. Jaco 10 May, 2018 at 7:56 pm #

    Their advertisements still sound very much the same.
    They continue to defend their claims and even when they promised to send me proof, didn’t bother to send it.

    Selling a product that probably is not much more than a placebo effect – I don’t get how people can consider this an honest living.

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