Australian watchdog rules against Ribena health claims

GlaxoSmithKline Australia had its knuckles rapped over misleading claims about its children's health beverage, Ribena. The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) said GlaxoSmithKline Australia had agreed to cease making the claim that Ribena contained four times the level of vitamin C in comparable orange juice products after it was found the level of vitamin C in the black currant drink did not meet its label claims.

ACCC's two main concerns were:

  • "representations on the nutrition information panel of Ribena Ready to Drink fruit drinks that claimed the products contained certain quantities of Vitamin C, when in fact they had significantly less Vitamin C."
  • "advertising and packaging representations of Ribena fruit drinks that: 'the black currants in Ribena contain four times the Vitamin C of oranges' implied that Ribena fruit drinks contained four times the Vitamin C of comparable orange juice products, when this was not correct."

GlaxoSmithKline Australia admitted the claim "may have misled customers" and agreed to publish notices in retail outlets and on web sites advising customers of the allegedly misleading claims, as well as publishing an article in an industry journal on the importance of accuracy when making claims to consumers.

"It is extremely important that companies use appropriate calculation methods when making claims about the contents of food or beverage products, especially when they relate to nutrition," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.

New Zealand's Commerce Commission launched court action against GlaxoSmithKline late last year over similar claims about Ribena's vitamin content. The company withdrew a drink called Ribena ToothKind in Britain in 2000 after claims that it did not encourage tooth decay were proved false.

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