Nu Slim – ASA ruling

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Posted 18 March 2011

Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against a Nu Slim internet advertisement that was published on www.nuslim.co.za The advertisement states, inter alia, the following claims: “Well done to all our customers in the Nu Slim family that achieved exceptional results during the past 36 months. Testimonials are pouring in with amazing success rate.” “Nu Slim IS STILL and WILL STAY the safest way to lose weight in South Africa!” 

The complainant added that the reference to testimonials that are “pouring in” are unlikely to be true, or at best, have not been proven. There is also no proof that the individuals lost weight due to the product advertised as opposed to simply following a diet. Similarly there is no evidence that this product “will change the life of many South Africans …” as claimed. This is presented as more than mere hyperbole.

Updated 20 February 2012
A reader brought to my attention that the conclusion was not clear. I have added the paragraph below.

The ASA agreed: There is no proof that this product works, and that therefore the claims that it can result in weight loss has not been proved, and therefore that the name "Nu Slim" is misleading. Therefore the name “Nu Slim” for the product must be withdrawn.


Nu Slim / HA Steinman / 17045

Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris SteinmanComplainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Nu Slim (Pty) LtdRespondent

16 Mar 2011

Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against a Nu Slim internet advertisement that was published on www.nuslim.co.za

The advertisement states, inter alia, the following claims:

  • “Well done to all our customers in the Nu Slim family that achieved exceptional results during the past 36 months. Testimonials are pouring in with amazing success rate.”

  • “Nu Slim IS STILL and WILL STAY the safest way to lose weight in South Africa!”

  • “Through determination, hard work and dedicated Marius has created a product that will change the life of many South African’s whereas their wellness, well-being, health and sustenance of life in general.”


The website further states that “Each Serving Contains” the following “Active Ingredients”:

“L-Phenylalanine- An aromatic amino acid without an ionizing side chain (or the absence of ionisable groups)
Carraluma Extract
Cha’de Burge
Niacin
Riboflavin
Thiamine
Pyridoxine Polinicotinate
Caffeine Anhydrous
Pipernigrum (Piperine)
Pyruvate
Uva Ursi Extract
Indian Lotus
Vitamin D3
L-Taurine
Nano-NZM-ePoc-550”

A section detailing the functions of each ingredient is also listed, along with studies relied on by the respondent. Finally, under the heading “Medical Information”, the respondent claims that the product’s “Pharmacological classification” is “A34”, and that it’s “Pharmacological action” is “Food Supplement Action”.

COMPLAINT
In essence, the complainant submitted that there is no clinical evidence that this product will result in weight loss, therefore the name Nu Slim is misleading. The complainant added that the reference to testimonials that are “pouring in” are unlikely to be true, or at best, have not been proven. There is also no proof that the individuals lost weight due to the product advertised as opposed to simply following a diet.

Similarly there is no evidence that this product “will change the life of many South Africans …” as claimed. This is presented as more than mere hyperbole.

The complainant added that there is no evidence that each capsule in fact contains all of the active ingredients as claimed. Furthermore, the various references cited to substantiate the claimed efficacy of each of these active ingredients have been cherry picked, so as to create a false sense that proof exists, when in fact, scientific consensus is that there is no conclusive evidence to support efficacy of these individual ingredients. Even in instances where the studies are possibly relevant, they were conducted using dosages very different from that in Nu Slim and were not mixed with other ingredients – which may have a nullifying effect on each other. Some studies were not even conducted on humans, or in other instances, do not even relate to the product which they are purported to support.

Given the above, and given that there is no evidence to show that the respondent’s product as a whole has ever been tested to show the claimed efficacy, the advertising is misleading and unsubstantiated.

The complainant further took issue with the fact that the product is indicated as a “dietary supplement for any person on a kilojoule restricted diet”, while in actual fact it has a purported pharmacological action and classification. As a result of the ingredients in this product, it has to be registered with the Medicines Control Council and there is no proof that it is.

The complainant requested sanctions to be imposed against the website and product. The complainant submitted that the individual behind this website and product is Mr Marius Venter, who was also involved in the Supreme Slim product, which made similar claims to this product. In other words, the company has full appreciation of the ASA regulations and having had an adverse ruling against a previous product.

RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint the following clauses of the Code were taken into consideration:

• Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation

• Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims

RESPONSE
Attorneys Moki, Van Huyssteen & Botes Inc, on behalf of the respondent, submitted that the discrepancies as pointed out by the complainant have been removed from its website and will not be used again in future. It also submitted a formulation report for Nu Slim as well as a copy of a document from California Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd trading as “CalpharmTM”, which contains a “CERTIFICATE OF GOOD MANUFACTURING PRACTICE (GMP)”. The Directorate notes that while the contents of this certificate are illegible, this is not material to the matter at this time.

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

Mr Marius Venter
Aside from querying the efficacy of the product, the complainant also raised concerns over the involvement of Mr Marius Venter, the Managing Director. In addition, he took issue with the fact that he is of opinion that the product should be registered with the Medicines Control Council (the MCC).

With regards to the involvement of Mr Venter, the complainant argued that Mr Venter was involved in another matter before the ASA involving a product called “Supreme Slim”.

In Supreme Slim / H A Steinman / 15273 (rulings dated 20 May 2010 and 30 August 2010), the Directorate ruled against various weight loss claims made for the Supreme Slim product. It is noted that none of the correspondence in that file indicates that Mr Venter was involved in any way. The company “Wellness Forever CC” also appears to be a different entity to the respondent.

In the absence of anything more than an allegation from the complainant, the Directorate has no reason to assume that the respondent, and more particularly its Managing Director, has received an adverse ruling and should therefore be aware of the requirements of the ASA Code.

This aspect of the complaint is therefore dismissed. Accordingly, the complainant’s basis for requesting sanctions falls away.

Product registration
Insofar as the question of whether or not the product has to be registered with the MCC, it is trite that the Directorate cannot determine such issues. In Promato / HPA / 9668 (2 June 2008) the Directorate ruled, inter alia, that:

“… the registration of medicines per se does not fall within the jurisdiction of the ASA. It is true that Clause 4 of Appendix A requires registered medicines to advertise in line with the registration. Appendices A and F set out certain limits on the claims that an unregistered medicine can make. This does not, however, bring the enquiry as to whether a particular product must be registered within the jurisdiction of the ASA”.

While the complainant may be correct that the product is not currently registered with the MCC, it is not for the Directorate to decide whether or not the product should be registered. Should the complainant be of the opinion that the product is subject to MCC registration, he should raise this issue with the MCC directly.

This aspect of the complaint therefore falls outside the ASA’s jurisdiction and can therefore not be considered.

Efficacy claims, references to testimonials, and ingredient-specific substantiation
In relation to the dispute on efficacy claims, product classification, and testimonials, the respondent submitted that “all the alleged discrepancies as pointed out by the complainant has since been removed” from its website. At the request of the Directorate, it also confirmed that these items will not be used again in future.

The ASA has a long standing principle which holds that where an advertiser provides an unequivocal undertaking to withdraw or amend its advertising in a manner that addresses the concerns raised, the undertaking is accepted without considering the merits of the matter.

This undertaking appears to address the complainant’s concerns and there is therefore no need for the Directorate to consider the merits of the matter at this time. It is also specifically noted that, because of this undertaking, it is not necessary for the Directorate to consider the contents of the claimed “Certificate of Good Manufacturing Practice” or the “Formulation Report” at this time, as any changes to the respondent’s website in this regard may well negate the relevance of these documents.

The undertaking is therefore accepted on condition that the claims and references referred to by the complainant in his complaint are removed within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide and are not used again in future.

In an effort to assist the respondent, the Directorate notes that these claims as cited by the complainant were:

  • “Well done to all our customers in the Nu Slim family that achieved exceptional results during the past 36 months. Testimonials are pouring in with amazing success rate.”

  • “Nu Slim IS STILL and WILL STAY the safest way to lose weight in South Africa!”

  • “Through determination, hard work and dedicated Marius has created a product that will change the life of many South African’s whereas their wellness, well-being, health and sustenance of life in general.”


As well as the information under the heading “Medical Information”, where the respondent claims that the product’s “Pharmacological classification” is “A34”, and that it’s “Pharmacological action” is “Food Supplement Action”.

Product name
The respondent submitted that by virtue of the fact that there is no substantiation as required by Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code for any of the weight loss type claims made, the product name “Nu Slim” is misleading.

The respondent did not address this issue, and did not provide an undertaking to refrain from using the name. Accordingly, the Directorate has to consider whether or not the name “Nu Slim” implies weight loss as suggested by the complainant.

The Directorate has held on several occasions that, in the mind of the hypothetical reasonable person, the word “slim” (and in some instances other derivatives, such as “slender”) when used in conjunction with a weight loss product, is likely to be associated with weight loss. By implication, any product name that incorporates the word “slim” within a weight loss context is likely to create an expectation that the product is a weight loss product. This, in turn, is an expectation that requires substantiation (refer the rulings made in the matters Simply Slim / HA Steinman / 15605; Supreme Slim / H A Steinman / 15273; Slender Caps / HA Steinman / 14726; and Bioslim Snack Bar / Dr HA Steinman / 857 for additional context).

The current circumstances are no different, and the Directorate is satisfied that the respondent’s product name “Nu Slim” will be interpreted as implying that the product would make one “slim” as a result of causing weight loss. There is, however, no substantiation at hand to support such an inference.

Accordingly, due to the lack of substantiation for weight loss efficacy, the name “Nu Slim” is also unsubstantiated and misleading, and therefore in contravention of Clauses 4.1 and 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code.

Given the above:

  • The name “Nu Slim” must be withdrawn;

  • The process to withdraw the name must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling;

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

  • The name may not be used again in its current format.


This aspect of the complaint is upheld.

Product composition
The complainant disputed whether or not the respondent’s product actually contains all of the ingredients listed on its website as “Active Ingredients”.

The respondent submitted a Formulation Report from California Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd confirming that each dosage unit contains the following:

“L-Phenylalanine (listed as active)
Caralluma Extract (listed as active)
Cha’de Bugre (listed as active)
Niacin (listed as active)
Riboflavine (listed as active)
Thiamine Hydrochloride (listed as active)
Pyrodoxine Hydrochloride (listed as active)
Chromium Polynicotinate (listed as active)
Caffeine Anhydrous (listed as active)
Black Pepper Extract, or Piper Nigrum (listed as active)
Pyruvate (Calcium pyruvate)
Uva Ursi Extr (Arctostaphylos uva ursi)
Indian Lotus Leaf (Bioflavanoid s)
Vitamin D3 (listed as active)
L-Taurine (listed as active)
NZM ePoc-M550 (listed as active)

Other inactive ingredients are also listed, but these do not appear to be relevant for the sake of this discussion.

This would suggest that the respondent’s product does actually contain the active ingredients as indicated on the website.

In light of this, the complainant’s query as to whether or not the capsules in question contain all these ingredients has been addressed, and the reference to these ingredients as “Active Ingredients” for the product appears to be substantiated and therefore not misleading.

This aspect of the complaint is therefore dismissed.

The Directorate specifically notes, however, that this does not suffice as evidence of any claimed efficacy, as only the product composition appears to be substantiated, nothing more.

rdquo;

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9 Responses to Nu Slim – ASA ruling

  1. Michelle 22 March, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Please note: Marius Venter WAS the importer and Managing Director of Simply Slim and not Supreme Slim !

  2. prudence 20 February, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Really whats the meaning of all this?

  3. Harris 20 February, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    @Prudence

    Thanks for bringing to my attention that the way I have posted this may not be clear. So I will be more careful in the future, and will change this one. Basically the ASA asked Nu-Slim for proof that their claims are true. Nu-Slim could not so the ASA said that they are no longer allowed to make those claims.

  4. Rachel Oberholster 22 November, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    I want to know if Dr. Cohen 1 St Personal Diet is safe on the long run. t

  5. Harris 22 November, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    @Rachel
    It is difficult to work out from their website, http://www.1stpersonaldiet.com/, what exactly their diet consists of. Although it claims to be “a balanced Eating Plan” (good), we have to trust that Dr Cohen “interprets” your blood tests correctly in order to construct a diet that gets “your body hormones back in balance.” Since I am not aware of any research published on this philosophy, it appears that one has to trust Dr Cohen’s interpretation and diet philosophy.

  6. RACHEL OBERHOLSTER 28 November, 2012 at 5:42 am #

    I want information about Herbex drops. Is it working? Thank you for the information about Dr. Cohen’s diet.

    Rachel Oberholster

  7. RACHEL OBERHOLSTER 7 December, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    What can I use to help me not eating the whole day and keep my cravings for sugar low?

  8. Harris 7 December, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    @Rachel
    There is no magic or miracle product that will do this except a change in your diet. I suggest you discuss this with a competent dietitian who will modify your diet to keep your cravings in control.

  9. Harris 7 December, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    @Rachel
    In spite of Herbex’s claims that there product works, the scientific support simply does not agree that it would.

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