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CAP guidance on diets and detoxing

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United Kingdom

Companies promoting their weight loss products and regimes have a year round target audience - whether consumers are preparing for a sunny holiday or a special occasion, or generally wanting to keep healthy and trim. The UK codes of practice on advertising laid down by the Committee of Advertising Practice ("CAP") and regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (the "ASA") already contain specific provisions on weight control and slimming. However, following a number of adverse adjudications by the ASA upholding complaints against companies exaggerating the benefits of the products, CAP has issued some guidance to help advertisers promote their products and regimes in a truthful and decent manner.

Companies promoting their weight loss products and regimes have a year round target audience - whether consumers are preparing for a sunny holiday or a special occasion, or generally wanting to keep healthy and trim.

The UK codes of practice on advertising laid down by the Committee of Advertising Practice ("CAP") and regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (the "ASA") already contain specific provisions on weight control and slimming. However, following a number of adverse adjudications by the ASA upholding complaints against companies exaggerating the benefits of the products, CAP has issued some guidance to help advertisers promote their products and regimes in a truthful and decent manner.

Their tips include the following:

  • Claims about the effects of your product or regime must be supported by robust evidence. This includes claims in product names and testimonials.

  • Avoid claims which exaggerate weight loss i.e. don’t make claims that state how much weight can be lost; that exact amounts of weight can be lost during a stated period; that weight can be lost from certain parts of the body or that weight loss will be permanent.

  • Claims should not be made irresponsible and unhealthy amounts of weight or fat loss. A rate greater than 2 lbs a week for those overweight but not obese is likely to be incompatible with medical and nutritional advice and practice.

  • You should only mention obesity or imply that they treat obesity if you can offer a multi-element lifestyle weight management programme that is compliant with the existing rule relating to such programmes in the non-broadcast CAP code.

  • Make sure that any use of before and after images don't exaggerate expected weight loss or indirectly imply irresponsible amounts or rates of loss.

  • Don't make claims that your product or regime can lessen the appearance of or treat cellulite or that they can improve the look of the skin covering the affected area. Treatment of cellulite would need to be supported by robust evidence.

  • Don't imply that "detoxing" products (such as wraps, patches or devices) can assist with weight or fat loss by flushing away toxins.

  • Don't claim that the accumulation of toxins can result in adverse medical conditions or that your products and regimes can prevent them.

  • Don't make claims that clothing can aid or have any permanent effect on weight or fat loss. Any marketing of such tight-fitting or figure enhancing clothing should focus only on the temporary appearance of weight loss and the short-term effect of a smaller girth.

  • Don't use claims, or images that could cause offence.

This guidance from CAP acts as a clear reminder that weight loss is a sensitive issue and it is important to remain honest, responsible and genuine with consumers. Falling foul of the rules can attract ASA action and negative publicity for your product and brand. We regularly advise clients on claims in their ad copy on this subject matter and other related matters including health, medicinal and comparative claims. So, if you would like any further advice within this area please do not hesitate to contact us.

Please note that the CAP advice does not cover food or food supplements which are covered by separate rules.

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