Solal, Sugar Association, ASA – again

Posted 6 May 2011

The South African Sugar Association (“SASA”) lodged a complaint with the ASA against Solal’s Naturally Sweet product in 2009. The advertisement was headed, “Too much sugar or artificial sweeteners can cause cancer.” On 01 Dec 2009, the ASA ruled against Solal.  Solal appealed and on the 17 May 2010, the ASA accepting the substantiation of the claims by Mr Rael Koping (a dietitian), ruling in favour of Solal. SASA requested arbitration but Solal argued the product had been sold to another company (also Solal owned). So SASA put in a new complaint against the advertising claims for this product now under the auspices of the “new” Solal company.

First ruling (opens in new window)

Second  ruling (opens in new window)

The ASA have ruled against Solal. See the full ruling below.

[note note_color=”#effcb5″]Solal Technologies / SASA / 17484
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the Read the rest

15 comments to Solal, Sugar Association, ASA – again

  • Roy

    How intriguing that Solal's lawyers consider these products (sugar substitutes) to be complementary medicines rather than foodstuffs.

  • Brent Murphy

    It is a lie (stated above by The Sugar Association and published on this site by their consultant Harris Steinman) that the World Health Organisation states that 
    "there is no evidence of a direct involvement of sugar in the aetiology of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Likewise, recent reviews could find no positive association between sugar consumption and weight gain."
    In fact the OPPOSITE is true.  The World Health Organisation Expert Consultation on Diet has stated the following about South Africans sugar consumption:
    “The argument that people should limit intake of sugar added to food is based on evidence that A HIGH INTAKE OF SUGAR INCREASES THE RISK OF CERTAIN CHRONIC DISEASES, particularly dental caries and obesity.  As oral diseases and obesity are widespread in South Africa and affect large numbers of people in terms of physical, economic, and social outcomes, the impact that REDUCTIONS IN SUGAR INTAKE would have as an important preventative measure NEEDS TO BE EMPHASISED.”
    “As consumption in people in urban areas of South Africa exceeded the 10% recommended by WHO, we caution against the argument that South Africans do not eat a lot of sugar.”
    1.    Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation on Diet. Nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2003 (WHO Technical Report Series No. 916). 
    The full report can be downloaded here:
    I suppose posting of the lie above should be expected, given that the Sugar Association wants to sell sugar; and Harris Steinman is the Sugar Association's consultant.
    Brent Murphy – B.Pharm (Rhodes), MPS
    SOLAL Technologies.

  • Harris

    I have regularly commented on the fact that Brent Murphy/Solal get their facts wrong. Here is again, another perfect example.

    I have not been involved in the Sugar Association's complaint (above) to the ASA. I have not given any input to this complaint. I have not seen the letter that the Sugar Association sent to the ASA. I am not a consultant to the Sugar Association. I have not earned any remuneration from the Sugar Association. 

  • Brent Murphy

    Hi Harris
    I notice you are choosing your words very carefully above.  Are you saying that you have not advised or helped the sugar association with regards to SOLAL Technologies sugar claims?  Furthermore I notice that the other commentator above, Roy Jobson has also consulted and acted for the sugar association. 

  • Roy

    Thanks for updating this blog to include the original advert and the references for the cancer claims being made.

    It seems surprising that since sucralose (Solal's product) seems to be a safe and effective carbohydrate sweetener in its own right, that Solal would seemingly choose to try and scare people by linking sugar and cancer without adequate evidence.

    It's also strange that the information about the inadequacy of the references in the advert itself did not get highlighted at the various ASA hearings.

    Brent is correct about my having assisted the Sugar Association. I was approached by them to prepare the documentation needed to support a request for arbitration against Solal concerning the advert you have included in the blog. The arbitration was shelved when the advertiser Solal Technologies Fine Pharmaceuticals sold the product to Capraplex which then became Solal Technologies – the “new” owner of the product.

    I received no remuneration for the preparation of the documentation. I was not in any way involved with the latest ruling. I would look at claims made by the Sugar Association using the same scientific approach as I consider claims made by Solal.

  • Harris


    Two years ago I explained to the Sugar Association how to lay a complaint with the ASA after they contacted me for advice. I had no role in any aspect of the complaint, drawing up the complaint, etc., except advising regarding the process. I received no remuneration for this. Importantly, see the amended posting – don't focus on the Sugar Association's arguments/claims but yours. Similarly, if the Sugar Association made misleading claims in their advertising, I would lay a complaint against them with the ASA. 

  • Nathan Geffen

    It's quite disturbing that instead of offering evidence in support of their claims, Solal's arguments to the ASA now consist of attacking the reputations of complainants. No arguments on the merits were put forward by Solal. This is at least the second ASA complaint in which they've taken this approach.
    This is not acceptable. And it only further weakens Solal's reputation.
    All that is being asked of Solal is that when they publish claims in advertisements, that these claims are backed up with sound scientific evidence.

  • Colin Levin

    Hi Nathan
    What is really disturbing is that Harris does not put up  the correct advert that was the subject matter of this latest complaint.  He then denies being a consultant and when pressed, finally admits to "helping the Sugar Association without being paid". Roy also admits to "assisting" the Sugar Association, but not being a consultant, and also not being paid.  What independent professional works for "without" payment?
    Where in our response have we attacked the Sugar Association reputation as you seem to suggest?  You also seem to be placing yourself in a position along with Harris that Solal somehow owes you an explanation in respects of our advertising.  We are perfectly willing to substantiate all of our claims but just not to you or Harris or Roy for that matter. You are neither a consumer or customer of ours and most importantly, you and Harris are not the medicines regulator or the government. These are delusions of self importance. Notwithstanding the above, Brent has provided you with a link to the World Health Organisation who also believe that South Africans consume way too much sugar and too much sugar causes obesity and therefore increases the diseases thereof. What is even more disturbing is that you, Harris and Roy purport to care about the health of South Africans, yet continue with your agenda against us to ensure that this message does not get out to the media and public.  Don't you get it? TOO MUCH SUGAR CAN CAUSE OBESITY!   You are so focused on your agenda of trying to damage Solal's reputation that you have actually lost sight of the important issues, which are to promote the health of South Africans and ensure that the widespread overconsumption of sugar is halted.  By allying yourself with the Sugar Association, you have exposed your own agenda for all to see. This matter with the Sugar Association is far from over, so watch this space! It is going to be interesting to see how the ASA is going to explain how these very same claims made by Solal Technologies Fine Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd are perfectly acceptable AND SUBSTANTIATED but if made by Solal Technologies Pty Ltd are not.

  • Brent Murphy

    Here's an interesting article about sugar that appeared in last last months New York Times:

  • Nathan Geffen

    Dear Colin
    You may if you wish send me a copy of the correct advert. Brent has my email address.
    There are several issues:
    1.  The ASA advert specifically talks about the claim that sugar causes cancer. So presumably this claim was made in the advert in question? Is there clear evidence showing a causal link between sugar and cancer? I am not aware of any.

    2. I have always understood that there is a causal link between type II diabetes and excess sugar intake, but I have no expertise. As a layperson the Solal claim in this regard appears plausible to me, but I emphasise I have no expertise. The question that arises is why then did Solal not put forward expert evidence in this latest complaint showing this? Why instead are Solal's responses to the ASA apparently aimed at undermining this important institution, as is clear from the above ruling of the description of your response and your attempts to undermine appendix F?

    3. Ditto with obesity.
    4. Is a diet "high in sugar" the same thing as a diet with "excess sugar"? I'm not sure it is. Most middle-class and even working-class people have diets high in sugar today. But "high" is quite subjective and has a different meaning to "excess".

    5. And then there are the misrepresentations of studies that Harris points out. Even where you are conclusions may be correct, studies need to be represented properly.
    I am not particularly interested in the aspects of this discussion that relate to competitive advertising and I have not an iota of sympathy for the Sugar Association.

  • Harris

    This is a response mainly to Colin Levin's comment above. To those reading this blog, Colin Levin is a director of Solal. I argue that his comments do Solal further harm. 

    I will respond to points in his earlier email at a later date for I have been away and need time.

    In the interim, in response:

    1. to his point about the "correct" advert, I have updated the posting above.

    2. he infers that I WAS a consultant to the Sugar Association, and that I must have been paid. I reiterate, I would give Solal the exact same advice that I gave to the Sugar Association. for free, if asked, which was simply to refer them to the appropriate sections on the ASA regulations and codes – which is on the ASA website. And I would not charge – simply because I am passionate about ridding the market of misleading or false advertising, and/or scams – all with the common feature of trying to take advantage of consumers (which I am one of).

  • Roy

    Thanks for the update, Harris.
    I also did a bit of "digging" and here is another Solal advert on their website which makes the statements ruled against:
    One of the unproven statements in this advert is: "A diet high in sugar can *cause* insulin resistance, fatigue, immune suppression and increases the risk of some cancers." (emphasis added).
    I find it interesting that this advert refers to Naturally Sweet as having a "zero GI" whereas in the webpages for the actual product (powder and sachets), and in other adverts (which do not contain the "offending" wording) the GI is stated to be "2". I wonder which is correct.
    Incidentally if you add up the costs of the 4 products (in the advert you added to the blog) to "lose fat, reduce sugar cravings and prevent deadly diabetes", it would be between R861 and R878 per month (in May 2011) depending on whether you prefer powder or sachets of Naturally Sweet. If I paid this for several months and didn't lose fat, had some "sugar cravings" and developed diabetes — do you think the National Consumer Council using the Consumer Protection Act would rule in my favour and perhaps award me damages to the extent that my expectations were not met and I would have to live with diabetes for probably the rest of my life? And what if the diabetes was in fact "deadly" and I died – would my next of kin be able to claim from Solal?
    It is also worth noting I think, that Naturally Sweet in powder form costs R77 for 250 g (i.e. R154 for 500 g) whereas white sugar from Pick 'n Pay on-line costs R5.29 for 500 g. In other words Naturally Sweet is almost 30 times more expensive than sugar. Clearly it is unaffordable for the majority of South African citizens.
    BTW – I don't answer to Colin Levin or Solal as to who I would prepare documentation for. I would usually make my decision based on the nature of the work – and I thought that it was particularly important for the egregious claim that "too much sugar can cause cancer" to not go unchallenged. It is fear-mongering advertising. My remuneration (or non-remuneration) arrangements are my decision alone and not anyone else's concern. As Harris has stated, if Solal were to challenge the Sugar Association from making a claim such as "too much sucralose can cause cancer," I would be prepared to assist Solal in such a challenge and any remuneration arrangements would remain private.

  • Harris

    Roy, thanks for your comments.

    Here is an interesting dilemma for Solal:

    To drive customers to their "Naturally Sweet" product, Solal placed an advert claiming "[T]oo much sugar may accumulate fat and make learning difficult". 

    This claim was made based on one study, conducted on carbohydrate deficient rats, and extrapolated to humans. In other words, Solal argue that one rat study is good enough to support their claims.

    Now "Naturally Sweet" contains sucralose. A recent study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health suggests that rats display metabolic problems when fed the artificial sweetener, Splenda (sucralose), at doses within the range commonly consumed by humans.

    Will Solal warn consumers? Should they withdraw this product from the market? Maybe the Sugar Association should run an advert that states that "  "Naturally Sweet at normal doses causes metabolic problems!"    

    Surely if Solal can use one study on rats to support their claims against sugar, then the Sugar Association can use the same method?

  • Brent Murphy

    Readers of this blog, watch this video, a talk by Robert H. Lustig, and make up your own minds: "Sugar: The Bitter Truth":

    Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods.

  • Harris

    Readers, a few words of caution regarding the video that Brent Murphy recommends you watch:

    1. The YouTube video is 89 minutes long! It may use up a substantial amount of your Internet bandwidth.

    2. In the levels of grading of evidence, "expert evidence" such as this is considered very low.

    3. Be cautious of anyone with "high credentials", their arguments may not be correct – consider whether they are supported by many other experts (Prof Lustig is not). For example, Professor Peter Duesberg is a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Duesburg is on record as challenging that HIV causes AIDS. He is one of the so-called “dissidents” that former President Thabo Mbeki listened to. 

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