A TV ad for probiotics drink Yakult has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for falling foul of health claims rules – despite not actually making any explicit health claims.

The ASA said the ad – which was shown last year and featured a Yakult bottle engaging in sporty activities such as skipping and pole-vaulting, and a voiceover talking about keeping life in balance – gave the general impression there was a health advantage to consuming Yakult, and ordered the company not to broadcast it again.

The anonymous complainant who challenged the ad also questioned whether the claim, made in the ad, that “Yakult’s unique bacteria are scientifically proven to reach the gut alive” could be substantiated, but this part of the complaint was not upheld by the ASA.

In a statement, Yakult said it was not its intention to mislead, that its ad had been designed specifically not to make any health or nutritional claims, and had been cleared by Clearcast, a body that pre-approves adverts before they are broadcast, on that basis. It said the sporty activities shown made no health claims and were simply “generic phrases”, which reflected interest in the Olympics at the time the ad was shown.

“Yakult welcomes the acknowledgement from the ASA that the specific product characteristic stated in the advert (ie. that Yakult’s unique bacteria are scientifically proven to reach the gut alive) is substantiated by scientific evidence. However, due to the single complaint received by the ASA and their subsequent ruling, Yakult will no longer broadcast this advertisement,” it said.