Siberian Pine Nut Oil: ASA ruling

Posted 07 November 2011

Mr Charleston lodged a consumer complaint against a newspaper advertisement for Siberian Pine Nut Oil, which appeared in the Sunday Times, and claims on the product's website. The print advertisement is headed “HEAL YOUR STOMACH” and claims that the respondent’s “COLD PRESSED” Siberian Pine Nut Oil acts as a “DIGESTIVE REMEDY”, and has achieved “SUCCESSFUL RESULTS IN THE TREATMENT AND RELIEF OF Acid Reflux, Peptic Ulcers, H.Pylori Gastritis, IBS, Gas”. It describes the product as “A natural anti-inflammatory which repairs, protects and strengthens the digestive mucosal lining and assist with digestion of food to prevent fermentation which can lead to a build up of acid and gas”. It further states that “Research proves that SIBERIAN Pine Nuts contain the richest source of healing properties of ALL the pine nut species”.

On the respondent’s website, it is also claimed that the product is an effective treatment of Acid Reflux, Barrett’s Oesophagus, Bloating, Blood Sugar Levels, Cholesterol Levels, Decreased Immunity, Gas, Gastritis, GERD, H Pylori, Hypertension, IBS, Low Energy, Peptic Gastric & Duodenal Ulcers, Ulcerative Colitis, Weight Loss”. An explanation is also provided of how and why the product works for all the stated conditions. Under the heading “blood sugar levels”, it states, inter alia, that “South Africa’s more than six million diabetics and those in a pre-diabetic state can benefit from the stabilizing effect Siberian Pine Nut Oil DIGESTIVE REMEDY has on the production of GLP-1”.

The complainant submitted that the advertisements are in breach of Appendix F of the Code by virtue of the diseases or medical conditions listed. He added that the references to “Weight loss” are a breach of Appendix E. Finally, he argued that the claims made have no scientific basis and require substantiation in terms of Clause 4.1 of Section II as read with Clause 4.25 of Section I (which contains the definition of “Scientific substantiation”).

Siberian Pine Nut Oil / K Charleston / 17527
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Kevin Charleston Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
The Other Option Alternative Health Trading cc t/a The Other Option Respondent

04 Nov 2011

http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=5823

Mr Charleston lodged a consumer complaint against a newspaper advertisement for the respondent’s Siberian Pine Nut Oil, which appeared in the Sunday Times. He added that the newspaper claims also appear on the respondent’s website, along with some additional claims.

The print advertisement is headed “HEAL YOUR STOMACH” and claims that the respondent’s “COLD PRESSED” Siberian Pine Nut Oil acts as a “DIGESTIVE REMEDY”, and has achieved “SUCCESSFUL RESULTS IN THE TREATMENT AND RELIEF OF Acid Reflux, Peptic Ulcers, H.Pylori Gastritis, IBS, Gas”.

It describes the product as “A natural anti-inflammatory which repairs, protects and strengthens the digestive mucosal lining and assist with digestion of food to prevent fermentation which can lead to a build up of acid and gas”. It further states that “Research proves that SIBERIAN Pine Nuts contain the richest source of healing properties of ALL the pine nut species”.

On the respondent’s website, it is also claimed that the product is an effective treatment of Acid Reflux, Barrett’s Oesophagus, Bloating, Blood Sugar Levels, Cholesterol Levels, Decreased Immunity, Gas, Gastritis, GERD, H Pylori, Hypertension, IBS, Low Energy, Peptic Gastric & Duodenal Ulcers, Ulcerative Colitis, Weight Loss”. An explanation is also provided of how and why the product works for all the stated conditions. Under the heading “blood sugar levels”, it states, inter alia, that “South Africa’s more than six million diabetics and those in a pre-diabetic state can benefit from the stabilizing effect Siberian Pine Nut Oil DIGESTIVE REMEDY has on the production of GLP-1”.

COMPLAINT
The complainant submitted that the advertisements are in breach of Appendix F of the Code by virtue of the diseases or medical conditions listed. He added that the references to “Weight loss” are a breach of Appendix E.

Finally, he argued that the claims made have no scientific basis and require substantiation in terms of Clause 4.1 of Section II as read with Clause 4.25 of Section I (which contains the definition of “Scientific substantiation”).

RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The complainant identified the following clauses or sections of the Code as relevant:

• Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation

• Appendix E – Advertising for slimming

• Appendix F – References to diseases in advertising

RESPONSE
Initially, Stefan Vos Marketing Regulation Advisors, on behalf of the respondent, submitted that it has commissioned Ms Allison Vienings to conduct an independent evaluation. However, due to her other professional commitments, and extension to respond would be needed. The Directorate, at its discretion, granted the extension.

Subsequent to this, Hahn & Hahn Attorneys, on behalf of the respondent, submitted a comprehensive response to the complaint, which included the following:

A letter from Dr AB Krivosheev, a professor of the department of Internal Medicine and a doctor of medical sciences. It requested confidentiality on this letter on the basis that it was actually supplied to a competitor of the respondent, who would not be happy to distribute the contents of the letter.

A host of testimonials received from satisfied customers.

Extracts from the report from “Amayeza Info Services”.

An article titled “Eradication of Helicobacter Pylori restores the inhibitory effect of cholecystokinin on postprandial gastrin release in deudenal ulcer patients”.

An extract from the September 2008 Journal of Nutrition article titled “2007 Nuts and health Symposium”, which contained several articles on the benefits or uses of tree nuts and peanuts.

An extract from an article titled “Listing of Tree Nut Research References for Studies Previously Submitted 2009/2010”.

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

Appendix E
The complainant submitted that “The website also claims to be effective in weight loss ‘WHY SIBERIAN PINE NUT OIL DIGESTIVE REMEDY IS EFFECTIVE IN WEIGHT LOSS’, which breaks the conditions of Appendix E (weight loss)”.

He did not, however, direct the Directorate’s attention to which provisions of Appendix E are problematic, or for that matter why the reference to weight loss in relation to this product is a concern insofar as this appendix is concerned.

Appendix E contains a host of requirements insofar as advertising for slimming is concerned. It is divided into categories dealing with “Mass loss”, “Diet plans”, “Aids to dieting” and “Appetite suppressant”, each containing specific requirements.

In the absence of any guidance on this from the complainant, neither the respondent nor the Directorate is able to effectively and accurately determine what the objection is and whether or not the advertising is indeed in breach of the appropriate rules.

As a result, the Directorate is unable, based on the complaint before it, to consider the respondent’s advertising in relation to Appendix E of the Code.

Appendix F
This appendix effectively prohibits advertisers from making or offering products, treatment or advice for any of the conditions listed in the appendix unless such references accord with a full product registration with the Medicines Control Council (MCC).

The complainant argued that the diseases or conditions listed in the print advertisement as well as on the website are conditions listed in Appendix F, and can therefore not be made in the absence of product registration with the MCC. The respondent did not specifically address this issue.

Of all the conditions listed in the respondent’s advertising, the Directorate notes that only the following are conditions listed in Appendix F:

“Hypertension”,

“Ulcers” (the respondent refers to “Peptic Ulcers” and “Peptic Gastric & Duodenal Ulcers”), and

“Diabetes” (the respondent refers to “…diabetics and those in a pre-diabetic state …”

Given this, the respondent’s references to “Hypertension”, “Ulcers” (of any kind except mouth ulcers) and “Diabetes” (or for that matter diabetics) are in breach of Appendix F of the Code.

This aspect of the complaint is upheld, and the respondent is instructed to withdraw these references with permanent and immediate effect within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide.

Substantiation
In support of the general efficacy of its product, the respondent relied on the confidential letter from Dr Krivosheev, testimonials, as well as the other supporting literature reflected earlier in this ruling.

Clause 4.1 of Section II effectively requires an advertiser to hold unequivocal verification for its claims prior to submitting its advertising for publication. It is also trite that the Directorate requires product-specific substantiation, and that testimonials and other anecdotal evidence is not acceptable.

The confidential letter from Dr Krivosheev, by the respondent’s admission, relates to a competitor’s product, and is therefore not product-specific to the respondent. This alone means that the Directorate cannot accept it. In addition, the Directorate notes that the respondent has not given any reasons why Dr Krivosheev should be accepted as an independent and credible expert for the purposes of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code. Other than being referred to on various websites where Siberian Pine Nut Oil is promoted, the Directorate was also unable to find any information to indicate who Dr Krivosheev is, or why he (or she) should be accepted as such an expert.

Insofar as the research articles and extracts of articles submitted by the respondent, these too are not product specific, and are therefore not acceptable. In addition, the respondent has not put any verification from an independent and credible expert before the Directorate to interpret these articles and documents and confirm that the conclusions reached equally and unconditionally apply to the respondent’s product when used at the recommended dose.

Lastly, Amayeza Info Services CC appears to have done a search on information available on Siberian Pine Nut Oil on:

Natural Medicines Database;
Micromedex Database;
Martindale On-Line;
Uptodate Database;
Pubmed Database; and
Medscape Database.

Aside from the fact that only one database (according to the summary provided by Amayeza) even contained information on Pine Nut Oil (13 animal studies and no published human clinical trials), there is again nothing before the Directorate, by means of verification from an independent and credible expert, to explain why this information is relevant, or supports the claims made.

Insofar as the respondent could, presumably, argue that Siberian Pine Nut oils are all the same, and that research on one would apply to another, the Directorate points out that this is something that an independent and credible expert would need to verify.

There is currently nothing before the Directorate to unequivocally show that the respondent’s product, when consumed at the dose recommended, will deliver the claimed benefits.

As such, the claims objected to by the complainant are currently unsubstantiated and in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.

It is also noted that the respondent appears to only have attempted to obtain independent verification when the complaint was received (with reference to the initial response obtained from Stefan Vos Marketing Regulation Advisors). While this is not material at the time, it is nonetheless concerning. The respondent is reminded that Clause 4.1 of Section II requires such substantiation to be available PRIOR to advertising.

In light of the above finding:

The respondent is instructed to withdraw its advertising

The process to withdraw the advertising has to be actioned with immediate effect upon receipt of this ruling

The removal of advertising should be completed within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide, and

The advertising at issue and claims objected to may not be used again in future.

This aspect of the complaint is upheld.

5 Responses to Siberian Pine Nut Oil: ASA ruling

  1. Sandra 6 March, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

    What? So are you saying that it doesn’t do any of the things it claims. Give it to me in English

    • Harris 6 March, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

      @Sandra
      Yes, the product cannot do what it claims it can

  2. Ivana031 17 October, 2014 at 6:47 am #

    so many people could bet opposite, so what do we do about all these folks claiming successful treatments with SPNO?

    • Harris 17 October, 2014 at 7:45 am #

      @Ivana031
      Anecdotal reports does not equal evidence.
      I have readers claiming that a certain product worked for them, but when we tested the product, found it had nothing in it except water. That is why proper proof is required. There are many reasons why people think that a treatment is successful. Sometimes because it does work, but only for 1% of users, mostly because of other well known reasons such as the placebo effect, regression to the mean, confirmation bias, Hawthorn effect etc. http://www.camcheck.co.za/critics/

  3. Johnny Appleseed 16 August, 2016 at 3:35 am #

    Haven’t heard of a cure in the many years I’ve been living. We all know that the money is in the treatment not the cure. Truth serum here… All of the drugs out here mask a symptom your seeking help for and then the drug causes more problems to which you end up using more medications for the newly developed symptoms. Its a vicious money making cycle. None of them work! They weren’t designed to work. They are manmade for money! There are more side affects than any benefit. Then you have an attorney on the very next commercial suing the drug companies for victims of side affects. What a kung fu hustle! Numerous drugs for one symptom. Try this. Try that. Really?
    Truth Serum again…God put everything here on earth He wanted and intended for man to have and use. The problem is it has fallen into the wrong hands, the hands of a multi trillion dollar industry called pharmaceuticals. Why wouldn’t we want to try natural God given solutions?
    In closing… I would be willing to try their product and show and tell my results both before and after.
    For all of the haters out there that are on the side of evil and controlled by money remember Jesus had/has haters to. We will continue to pray for you in hopes you leave the dark side. Your day will come!

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