Advertising food supplements is regulated differently than advertising drugs. Because they are treated as food, they can be advertised differently than medicinal products.
First of all, it is prohibited to advertise supplements in a way that:
- is contrary to the law, morality, or offends against human dignity;
- misleads customers and may thereby influence their decision to purchase the product
- appeals to customers’ feelings by inducing fear, using superstitions by encouraging the purchase of goods or services,
- gives the appearance of neutral information
Of course, each of the above terms has been subject to interpretation by courts and authorities in order to clarify their meaning.
Certainly, one of the key issues is that the advertising of a supplement should not create the impression that it is a medicine or mislead, in particular:
- as to the properties of the foodstuff,
- by attributing to the foodstuff effects or properties that it does not possess;
- by suggesting that it has special properties when in fact all similar products have such properties,
- by attributing properties for the prevention or treatment of human disease or referring to such properties
The entirety of the regulations concerning prohibitions in the advertising of supplements can be found in the Suppression of Unfair Competition Act and European Parliament Regulation No. 1169/2011
The National Council of Supplements and Nutrients has also developed an internal code of ethics, which regulates the rules of advertising supplements. It provides, for example, that:
- it is unacceptable to refer to testimonials or opinions that are unconfirmed, untrue, outdated or likely to give consumers a sense of fear
- advertising activities must not be offensive or diminish trust in the dietary supplement and foodstuff intended for particular nutritional uses sector, or be contrary to good practice
Product advertising, and its label or other markings, should not be:
- misleading the consumer, by attributing to the Product beneficial effects on health or physiological processes occurring in the body, or referring to such abilities, if there is no clear basis for this in the form of objectively reliable scientific data.
- misleading the consumer by attributing to the Product any beneficial effects on health or physiological processes in the body, or claiming such ability, if the scientific or medical basis on which the information is based concerns a form or physico-chemical composition of the substance to which such ability is attributed other than that used in the product,
- misleading the consumer by attributing to the product a beneficial effect on health or physiological processes in the body, or by making reference to such capacity where the scientific or medical basis on which that information is based concerns a quantity of the substance to which such capacity is attributed which is substantially different from the quantity of the substance used in the product,
- misleading the consumer as to the characteristics of the Product, its attributes and composition, quantity, durability, place of origin and production or method of production or storage,
- misleading the consumer regarding the description of the impact on human health or physiological processes in the human body
- misleading the consumer by attributing to the Product the characteristics that are not associated with the characteristics of the foodstuff,
- misleading the consumer by creating the impression that the Product has special properties when in fact its quality and properties are comparable to other similar foodstuffs and do not differ substantially from them
- misleading the consumer by concealing risks related to the Product that are generally known or known only to the Producer at the given moment of scientific knowledge.
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