Source: Chuckling Goat

The brand’s founder Shann Jones hit back at the ruling, arguing the government “has not caught up with the science”

Kefir and gut health brand Chuckling Goat has been reprimanded by the ASA for implying its products could protect against viruses and the flu amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The watchdog fast-tracked an investigation into Chuckling Goat, which sells a wide range of kefir-based products across several categories, as part of a fresh focus on tackling ads it said “exploit health-related anxieties during the crisis”.

The watchdog ruled that adverts run by the brand on buses in Reading and Yorkshire, which cited the brand as “gut health experts” and stated ”What’s your best defence against any virus? Boost your immune system”, implied that Chuckling Goat food products could help to prevent people from catching viruses by boosting immunity, and was therefore a claim that a food could prevent, treat or cure human disease.

Meanwhile pages on the brand’s website called ‘viruses’ and ‘the flu’ were deemed in breach of the CAP code for claiming they could “boost” immunity.

The ASA said Chucking Goat had “not provided any evidence to demonstrate that any of their food products contained substances in amounts sufficient that they could use any authorised health claims which related to immune function”. 

Chuckling Goat responded that its poster campaign had ended and it had removed the ‘viruses’ and ‘flu’ pages from its website. It also provided weblinks to three articles on gut health and immunity to the watchdog, adding it would co-operate with any legal standards and did not intentionally violate any standards.

The ASA said this response was not “substantive” and ruled the ads must not appear again in the same form.

The brand’s director Shann Jones told The Grocer: ”This is unfortunately one of those places where the government has not caught up with the science. The science is really clear that boosting your gut health does improve immunity.

“Doctors and scientists both inside and outside the NHS are aware of this. But it has unfortunately not percolated through the entire bureaucracy.

“The original ad was approved by the Committee of Advertising Practice because we were sending people to an advice page to get advice about gut health. Then the ASA contacted us and said because we are also selling kefir on our website were actually making the claim that the kefir will prevent the virus.” 

The CAP and ASA are sister companies, but the ASA is not bound by advice given to advertisers by the CAP.  

Under EU regulations, only health claims listed as authorised on the EU Register of Nutrition and Health Claims are permitted for use in brands’ marketing communications.

“Because the ads made a specific health claim, but we had not seen evidence that any of Chuckling Goat’s products met the conditions of use associated with a relevant authorised claim on the EU Register, and the advertising claims in any case exaggerated the meaning of relevant claims authorised on the EU Register, we concluded the ads breached the Code”, said the ASA.

Chuckling Goat had since been contacted by “people inside the NHS who want to improve their patients’ immunity before the second spike of Covid”, said Jones.

“The government is spending their time and energy keeping people from having the evidence-based information about what they can do to boost ther own immunity before the second spike. They’re spending their time silencing us.”

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