Posted 05 October 2015
This ASA ruling was made in November 2006. USN claimed that Cellu-firm “to be effective for cellulite”. The complainant pointed out that the active ingredient is Centella asiatica, a synonym for gotu kola, and that Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, the “Scientific Gold Standard for Evidence-Based, Clinical Information on Natural Medicines” had NO indication that this ingredient has ANY efficacy against cellulite.
USN Cellu-Firm / HA Steinman / 5622
Ruling of the: ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
DR HA Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Ultimate Sports Nutrition (Pty) Ltd Respondent
28 November 2006
Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against a print advertisement for USN’s “Cellu-Firm”. The advertising is titled, “Cellulite Is it your worst enemy?” and positions the product as an “anti-cellulite” dietary supplement. It also states, inter alia, “Cellu-Firm is formulated with a precise blend of herbal extracts to increase blood flow and the metabolic rate, freeing the trapped fat and eliminating cellulite”.
The complainant submitted, in essence, that the claim that this product is effective against cellulite cannot be substantiated. The complainant also took issue with the active ingredient, Centella asiatica, stating that there is no indication in literature that this ingredient has any efficacy against cellulite.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint the following clauses of the Code were considered relevant: • Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation • Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims • Appendix C – Advertising of cosmetics
The respondent submitted arguments contending that the complainant is involved in numerous business activities in the Health Industry and that he sells advertising space to companies in, inter alia, the slimming market. He must therefore be regarded as a competitor and not a consumer. Subsequently, the respondent submitted documentation from Dr Trevor Baillie in support the efficacy of the product and lifestyle treatment programme for the treatment of cellulite.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties. The Directorate firstly notes that the scope of this ruling is limited to the subject matter of the complaint brought to the ASA, namely whether the claims concerning the efficacy of the respondent’s product can be substantiated. This ruling must therefore be interpreted and applied accordingly.
Status of the complainant
The respondent initially challenged the status of the complainant. In Liqui Lean / Dr H A Steinman / 4332 / (30 August 2006) the Directorate established that the complainant does not have a commercial interest in slimming and related products. The arguments put forward by the respondent in this matter are no different, and the Directorate therefore has no information to counter its previous decision. While the complainant can be regarded as an informed consumer in relation to slimming and related products, he does not appear to have a conflicting or commercial interest in weight-loss products. The complainant is accordingly regarded as a consumer in this matter.
The complainant submitted that the product contains Centella asiatica for which there is no scientific evidence that it has any efficacy against cellulite. The respondent submitted documentation from Dr Trevor Baillie titled, “Substantiation provided for USN Cellu Firm and the effectiveness of this product and lifestyle program for the treatment of cellulite”.
Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code requires substantiating documents to emanate from, or be evaluated by an entity which is independent, credible and an expert in the field to which the claims relate. Dr Trevor Ballie appears to be employed at the respondent’s head office in Dubai. His contact details are also available on the respondent’s website. Accordingly, he cannot be regarded as independent and therefore cannot be used to substantiate the claims made for this product, as he does not ex facie satisfy the requirements of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
As the respondent failed to submit independent scientific evidence to support the claims made in the advertising, the product ingredients and formulation remain unsubstantiated in terms of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code. Accordingly, the claims made in this context are in breach of Clause 4.1 and 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code at this time. Given the above finding:
- The advertisement must be withdrawn;
- The process to withdraw the advertisement must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of ruling;
- The withdrawal of the advertisement must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and
- The advertisement may not be used again in its current format in future.
In light of the above contravention it is not necessary to consider the remaining clauses at this time. The respondent’s attention is also drawn to Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide, which requires offending claims to be withdrawn from all media, notwithstanding the fact that the complainant did not specifically refer to a particular media. The complaint is upheld.
13 July 2006
Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa
Dear Sir or Madam:
Re: USN Cellu-firm
USN is selling a product called Cellu-firm which claims to be effective for cellulite. I argue that this cannot be substantiated.
The active ingredient is Centella asiatica. This is a synonym for gotu kola. In previous arguments with the ASA for a products’ efficacy, two “credible experts” for a respondent, independently of each other, confirmed Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database as the “Scientific Gold Standard for Evidence-Based, Clinical Information on Natural Medicines.” I accessed this resource on 13 July 2006, and there is NO indication that this ingredient has ANY efficacy against cellulite. In fact, in the 4 page overview, the word “cellulite” is not used once!
This source states:
“People Use This For:
Orally, gotu kola is used for reducing fatigue, anxiety, depression, improving memory and intelligence, venous insufficiency including varicose veins, wound healing, and increasing longevity. It is also used for the common cold and influenza, sunstroke, tonsillitis, pleurisy, urinary tract infection (UTI), hepatitis, jaundice, abdominal pain, diarrhea, indigestion, gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, dysentery, trauma, shingles, leprosy, cholera, syphilis, psychiatric disorders, epilepsy, asthma, anemia, and diabetes. Gotu kola is also used for contraception, amenorrhea, elephantiasis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), tuberculosis, memory loss, and as an aphrodisiac.
Topically, gotu kola is used for wound healing and reducing scars.
Parenterally, gotu kola is used for bladder lesions associated with schistosomiasis.”
Furthermore, this substance has toxicity potential – it is hepatotoxic (damages the liver)
Similarly, accessing orthodox medicines “scientific gold standard for evidence-based, clinical information” found no efficacy for this substance.
I therefore argue that the claims made for this product are misleading and unverifiable.