British Advertising Standards Authority
Adjudication on YorkTest Laboratories Ltd (2012)
YorkTest Laboratories Ltd
York Science Park
York Y010 5DQ
Date: 20 June 2012
Media: Direct mail
Sector: Health and beauty
Number of complaints: 1
Complaint Ref: A12-188537
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A direct mailing for FoodScan food intolerance testing. It included several customer testimonials, including "Hyperactivity Five year old Michael used to be so hyperactive that he could only go to school on a part-time basis … After taking the FoodScan 113 Test Michael discovered he was intolerant to a range of foods …"; "Tiredness Veronica suffered from food related illness for two years prior to taking the test and often went weeks without eating … After taking the YorkTest Food Intolerance Test she learned that she was intolerant to dairy and wheat and started eliminating these foods from her diet. Within three weeks she was sleeping better and feeling well. She changed her diet completely and even that of her husband who is also benefitting from the treatment"; "Weight Problems Fiona suffered from a multiple [sic] of problems, which included weight gain, decreased energy levels and a lowered mood. Fiona took the FoodScan 113 Food Intolerance Test and with the help from one of our nutritionists, she was on the road to recovery … Fiona also suffers from arthritis in her knee, which prevented her from sleeping at night and the FoodScan 113 Test has now given her a good night's sleep …"; "Itchy Skin Sarah was only 4 years but from the age of 2 months to 11 months she was having three bandage changes a day and a tub of steroid cream applied … Within three weeks of the test being taken she was sleeping better and the eczema had gone. She changed her diet and began reading labelled foods more carefully including salads, fish and meat".
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the testimonials were genuine, in particular because those related to hyperactivity and itchy skin implied children aged four and five had understood their own test results, read food labels or controlled their own diet as a result of the testing; and
2. the claims that the food intolerance tests could be used to treat weight problems, arthritis and tiredness, including in those who had not taken the test, were misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. & 2. YorkTest Laboratories Ltd (YorkTest) said the testimonials were based on genuine feedback from their customers. Some of those testimonials were, however, from many years ago and they did not necessarily still hold documentary evidence to support all of them. They said they had therefore withdrawn the ad and would not in future use testimonials without holding suitable evidence. YorkTest said they would also review the wording of any testimonials to ensure they did not include any claims that could be misleading.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA noted YorkTest did not submit evidence to demonstrate that the testimonials in the ad were genuine or to substantiate the efficacy claims made in the testimonials. In the absence of such evidence, we considered the testimonials had not been demonstrated to be genuine and that the efficacy claims were misleading. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.45 and 3.47 (Endorsements and testimonials) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told YorkTest to ensure they were in a position to demonstrate that future testimonials were genuine. We also told them to ensure they held adequate evidence to support future efficacy claims.
This article was posted on June 20, 2012.