StemEnhance: 1st ASA ruling

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Posted 07 April 2009

A consumer (Prof Carr) laid a complaint against the claims for StemEnhance.  The brochure contains, inter alia, the claim, “Stem cell enhancers are products that support the natural release of adult stem cells.” Prof. Carr (and I too), claim the evidence to support these claims are inadequate.

Stemenhance / J Carr / 12708 
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Prof Jonathan Carr    Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Stemtech Africa (Pty) Ltd    Respondent

07 Apr 2009

http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=4632

Professor Carr lodged a consumer complaint against a StemTech brochure promoting StemEnhanceTM.

The brochure contains, inter alia, the claim, “Stem cell enhancers are products that support the natural release of adult stem cells.”

COMPLAINT
The complainant stated as follows:

“The claims made by the advertisement that stem cell enhancers are beneficial are false. There is no proven medical benefit of such a product. The claim that stem cell enhancers support stem cells is false”.

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 – Substantiation

• Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims

RESPONSE
Clear Copy, on behalf of the respondent, pointed out that the complaint is vague and not entirely clear on what the complainant is disputing. None of the claims referred to by the complainant appear in the advertisement. In the interest of resolving the matter, however, it submitted documentation from Ms Viviana Ponte, together with her CV.

The respondent added that Ms Ponte has previously been accepted as an expert by the ASA Directorate in Spirulina / Prof D Labadarios (19 September 2005) and in Foodstate / Wyeth Consumer Healthcare (29 September 2008).

Ms Ponte confirms that she has perused the articles and scientific references supplied by the respondent and has also applied her own knowledge and understanding to reach the conclusion that the following claims are substantiated:

“StemEnhanceTM helps to support the natural release and role of adult stem cells”;

“Stem cell enhancers support your stem cells in maintaining proper organ and tissue functioning in your body”;

“StemEnhanceTM supports wellness by helping your body maintain healthy stem cell physiology”.

Clear Copy further submitted that Ms Ponte:

Is a qualified and experienced pharmacist and therefore has knowledge of all types of pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

Is an expert in MCC submissions, and as such is qualified and experienced in the field of research evaluation.

This is no different to the Foodstate and Spirulina matters. The respondent recognises that the claims in the current matter are unusual. This does not, however, change the basic premise. As a pharmacist and expert in research evaluation, Ms Ponte is more than qualified to assess the product in question.

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

The respondent correctly pointed out that the complainant does not identify specific claims. He merely states, “… claims made … that stem cell enhancers are beneficial are false” and that the “… claim that stem cell enhancers support stem cells is false”. Given this vagueness, the Directorate, having perused the advertising, is satisfied that the claims referred to by Ms Ponte adequately relate to the complainant’s concerns and appear to be applicable. This ruling will therefore only consider whether these specific claims are adequately substantiated.

Clause 4.1.4 of Section II states that documentary evidence shall emanate from or be evaluated by a person/entity, which is independent, credible, and an expert in the relevant field.

The Directorate is not an expert in this field, and therefore has to rely on independent and credible experts to evaluate the substantiation and verify that the claims, as they appear in the advertising, are true. Should the Directorate be satisfied that the expert used meets the criteria of Clause 4.1 of Section II, the only remaining question is whether or not the expert confirms the claims disputed. The opinion by Ms Ponte was submitted in this regard.

The Directorate is satisfied that Ms Ponte meets the requirements of Clause 4.1.4 of Section II of the Code. She has previously been accepted as an independent credible expert in matters relating to the pharmacological functioning of supplements and there is no new evidence before the Directorate to warrant a different approach now. Furthermore, there is nothing before the Directorate to suggest that Ms Ponte is not independent.

Ms Ponte Ms Ponte confirmed the veracity of the following claims:

Stem Enhance supports the natural release of adult stem cells;

Stem cell enhancers support your stem cells in maintaining proper organ and tissue functioning in your body;

Stem Enhance supports wellness by helping your body maintain healthy stem cell physiology.

As such, the Directorate is satisfied that these claims are substantiated in terms of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code. Accordingly, they cannot be said to be misleading in terms of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code.

The complaint is therefore dismissed.

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