Immunadue – ASA ruling

Posted 08 July 2016

A consumer lodged a complaint against the Immunadue’s print advertisement appearing on the front page of the Beeld Newspaper on 28 March 2016.

The advertisement is headed “Kry ‘n perfekte pH balans met Immunadue” (obtain a perfect pH balance with Immunadue). It features a photograph of a family, with a chart depicting the following illnesses on an inverted bell-curve:

  • “Artritis” (Arthritis)
  • “Stres” (Stress)
  • “Sommige Kankers” (Certain Cancers)
  • “Inflamasie” (Inflammation)
  • “Diabetes”
  • “Jig” (Gout)
  • “Osteoporose” (Osteoporosis)

The complainant submitted that “There is no scientific proof that this type of ‘medication’ can alter blood or tissue pH level to the extent that it can be beneficial in treating the conditions listed in the advertisement. This is fraudulent information, it misleads the public and can lead to serious complications and even death in patients that might discontinue their own medication to switch to this product”.

The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties, and ruled against Immunadue’s claims.

Immunadue / B Linde / 2016-3308F

Ruling of the: ASA Directorate

In the matter between:

Dr Bernard Linde Complainant(s)/Appellant(s) Star Choice Marketing (PTY) LTD Respondent

28 June 2016

http://www.asasa.org.za/rulings/immunadue_d-linde_2016-3308f

Dr Linde lodged a consumer complaint against the respondent’s print advertisement appearing on the front page of the Beeld Newspaper on 28 March 2016.

The advertisement is headed “Kry ‘n perfekte pH balans met Immunadue” (obtain a perfect pH balance with Immunadue). It features a photograph of a family, with a chart depicting the following illnesses on an inverted bell-curve:

  • “Artritis” (Arthritis)
  • “Stres” (Stress)
  • “Sommige Kankers” (Certain Cancers)
  • “Inflamasie” (Inflammation)
  • “Diabetes”
  • “Jig” (Gout)
  • “Osteoporose” (Osteoporosis)

On the right-hand side a sub-heading “Water [sic] kwale word veroorsaak deur ‘n verlaagte pH-vlak?” (Which ailments are caused by lowered pH-levels?) is accompanied by images with the following conditions listed:

  • “Cholesterol”
  • “Vergeetagtigheid” (Forgetfulness)
  • “Konsentrasie” (Concentration)
  • “Diabetes”
  • “Osteoporose” (Osteoporosis)
  • “Nierprobleme” (Kidney problems)
  • “Griep en Verkoue” (Flu and Colds)
  • “Artritis” (Arthritis)

COMPLAINT

The complainant submitted that “There is no scientific proof that this type of ‘medication’ can alter blood or tissue pH level to the extent that it can be beneficial in treating the conditions listed in the advertisement. This is fraudulent information, it misleads the public and can lead to serious complications and even death in patients that might discontinue their own medication to switch to this product”.

He subsequently submitted links to various research articles in support of his argument, adding that as a medical practitioner, he is in a position to confirm that this type of “therapy” would not constitute “standard medical practice” and is not taught in the medical syllabus. In addition, he noted that “… the ‘evidence’ promoted by these companies, are a misrepresentation of the physiological acid-based metabolism and cannot be promoted to cure or alleviate the chronic diseases listed …”

RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

In light of the complaint, the Directorate considered the following clauses of the Code to be relevant:

Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation

Section II, Clause 13 – Safety

RESPONSE

The respondent firstly acknowledged the minor typographical error in the advertisement (the word “Water” should have read “Watter”), and added that the complainant is factually incorrect, as the product is not an Alkaline Water as the complainant assumed. In addition, no Alkaline diet is promoted as the complainant appears to believe.

It submitted copies of research findings and references taken from Wikipedia in support of its argument, and argued that these prove that “… certain ingredients may assist in the addressing of acidity in the urine and buffering acid in the human body”. It added that the product contributes to levels of minerals, magnesium, calcium and phosphor, has been successfully marketed and sold for 15 years and is well received.

In closing, the respondent confirmed its unconditional willingness to cooperate with any recommendations or findings by the ASA.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

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

At the outset, the Directorate wishes to acknowledge the respondent’s unconditional pledge of cooperation. Such intentions clearly serve to further the interest of consumers and of advertising self-regulation as a means of protecting the credibility of the advertising industry at large. The respondent’s approach is commended.

Getting to the merits of the matter, it is imperative that the ASA firstly determine what the likely takeout would be when the hypothetical reasonable person is confronted with this advertisement.

The heading encourages viewers to use this product to obtain a “perfect” pH balance. This suggests that any pH balance other than between 7.2 and 7.4 (which are the levels indicated beside the inverted bell-curve) is inadequate.

The specific conditions listed on the inverted bell curve further reinforce the notion that people who have suboptimal pH levels are more at risk of developing the diseases shown, namely arthritis, stress, certain cancers, inflammation, diabetes, gout and osteoporosis.

The imagery on the right-hand side again lists these conditions as well as a few additional ones, and explains that such conditions are likely caused by a lowered pH level. It then encourages the reader to give his/her health a “natuurlike hupstoot” (natural boost), presumably by using this product.

The Directorate is satisfied that a hypothetical reasonable person would therefore interpret this advertisement as a notice to say that using this product will either lower your risk of developing the types of diseases listed, or help combat (possibly even successfully treat) such conditions in those who use the product. The question therefore becomes whether or not the respondent holds adequate proof of such a communication.

Clause 4.1 of Section II stipulates that any direct or implied claims that are capable of objective verification (as is clearly the case here) need to be corroborated by an independent, credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. It is trite that the ASA requires unequivocal, product-specific evidence to show that the product being advertised, when consumed at the recommended dose, will deliver on the claims made.

The respondent relied on information obtained from several online sources dealing with the issue of pH levels, and its impact on diseases. While these appear (at least at face value) to support the respondent’s argument that reduced pH levels have some impact on one’s health, none of them appear to relate to, refer to, or even consider the respondent’s product or its purported health benefits.

This means that at present, there is nothing to show that the respondent’s product has ever been evaluated and proven to have any impact on the conditions listed, or on the pH levels of those who consume it. As such, there is currently nothing before the Directorate to substantiate the respondent’s claimed impact on pH levels and on the disease conditions listed in the advertisement.

This renders the advertisement in breach of the provisions of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.

As a result, the respondent is instructed to:

Withdraw the advertisement at issue,

Take immediate action to ensure that the instruction to withdraw is appropriately issued and actioned, Ensure that the advertisement is withdrawn within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide, and Refrain from using this advertisement (irrespective of the spelling mistake noted by the respondent) again in its current form in future unless new substantiation is accepted in accordance with Clause 4.1.7 of Section II.

The complaint is upheld, meaning that there is no need to consider the provisions of Clause 13 of Section II (Safety) at this time.

One Response to Immunadue – ASA ruling

  1. R van Noordwyk 9 May, 2019 at 7:58 am #

    Ammunadue advertisement on Pretoria FM claims it is clinicaly tested. Is it true?

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