Benecol ad banned over “exgaggerated” health claims

A Johnson & Johnson TV ad for Benecol yoghurt drinks has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after the body ruled it exaggerated the health benefit of the product and misleadingly implied that the majority of healthy UK adults had ‘high’ cholesterol.

The ad, which featured a voice over stating that “two out of three adults have high cholesterol”, received two complaints from viewers who questioned whether the claim could be substantiated. The ASA itself challenged whether the ad made unauthorised health claims.

Johnson & Johnson defended the ad and said that it used stats released from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2011 to back up the claim.

Clearcast said the ad was cleared on the basis of the pre-production script and evidence submitted by Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson added that the authorised health claim for the product was: "Plant sterols and plant stanol esters have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease".

It continued that it believed the average consumer understood the association between high cholesterol and coronary heart disease.

In its ruling the ASA said: “We considered the ad implied that two-thirds of healthy UK adults currently had cholesterol levels that were generally accepted as ‘high’, whereas we had not seen evidence that was the case.”

It concluded that the claims did not meet the conditions of use specified in the EU Register and that they therefore breached the code.

The ad must not be broadcast again its current form.

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