An advertisement for a functional water has been banned in the UK over claims the product can lower blood pressure.
Works With Water Nutraceuticals was told by the London-based Advertising Standards Authority not to repeat the press advert for its 120/80 water because it could discourage sufferers of high blood pressure from seeking medical attention for their condition and contained medicinal claims for an unauthorised product.
The advert for the water, which contains dairy peptides, appeared in the national newspaper The Daily Telegraph and consisted of a front page flash stating: "Lower your blood pressure with our free spring water."
A promotion inside the newspaper claimed: "The first spring water developed especially to tackle the growing problem of high blood pressure ... 120/80, named after the optimum blood pressure level, is the first spring water in the UK to contain dairy peptides, which are derived from milk protein and clinically proven to be effective in the lowering and management of blood pressure."
Addressing a complaint that the advert could discourage someone from seeking medical care, Lancashire-based Works With Water told the ASA it took "extreme care" to ensure it did not mislead consumers by claiming or implying its products could treat, prevent or cure disease or discourage essential treatment for a serious medical condition.The company said the first paragraph of the main editorial copy had made a positive statement, raising awareness of the prevalence of increased blood pressure in the UK. It argued that, throughout the communication, emphasis was placed on the fact that medical research had shown that the daily consumption of 4g of dairy peptides could help to lower blood pressure in people with mild hypertension.
It also provided details of the wording on the product's packaging, which included advice to consult a doctor if high blood pressure was suspected.
Works with Water said the headline on the article inside the newspaper should have stated "Free spring water for every reader to help lower your blood pressure", but that the word "help" was omitted due to a proofing error for which it accepted full responsibility.
But it said it was not responsible for the front page flash or content, which was down to The Daily Telegraph's editorial discretion at the time of going to print. Works With Water added that it did not intend to repeat the promotion.
Handing down its verdict, the ASA said it noted the copy should have stated "help lower your blood pressure." But it said it also noted "numerous references" to lowering blood pressure and the claim: "the UK's first spring water developed especially to tackle the growing problem of high blood pressure."It said it "considered that readers could infer that the product would treat high blood pressure." It added: "We concluded that the ad could discourage readers from seeking essential medical treatment for a serious medical condition."
Defending the allegation the blood pressure claim represented a medicinal claim, meanwhile, Works With Water told the ASA the claim was in line with other products launched in the UK and Europe and followed on from "numerous cholesterol lowering and heart health claims for products on the market."
It gave the ASA clinical studies of the blood pressure-lowering effects of dairy peptides and examples of other food and drink products that claimed blood pressure control or lowering, or cholesterol lowering.
But the ASA said: "We noted Works With Water believed their product did not require a marketing authorisation because the active ingredients were relatively mild and it was not an alternative to medication. However, we understood from Lancashire Trading Standards department that a claim to lower blood pressure was considered to be medicinal under the Food Labelling Regulations 1996. We concluded that the ad made medicinal claims for an unauthorised product."