Monday, February 12, 2007

Ruling against Redbush tea advertisement

It is great to be able to flag up an investigation conducted by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). We have been critical of the ASA in the past for refusing to investigate advertisements that we argue are de facto advertisements for infant formula, which are illegal in the UK. See last Thursday, for example:

Also for refusing to accept that as advertisements have to be ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’ companies should do more than comply with a narrow interpretation of the law. We believe decent, honest and truthful advertising should also comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly as companies are called upon to abide by the Code’s provisions independently of government measures.

The ASA – which is funded by the advertising industry – disagrees. Violating the marketing requirements of the world’s highest health policy setting body is fine under the industry’s voluntary code.

Which is by way of introduction to congratulating the ASA for a ruling published last week. We do give credit where credit is due, as in my earlier blog:

This new ruling is about Redbush Tea, which was promoted for feeding for infants in an advertorial in a parenting magazine. As it was promoted for use before 6 months of age, it is a de facto breastmilk substitute. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended before 6 months, with no water, juices, tea or other liquids. This argument cuts little ice with the ASA, of course.

However, it did take issue with some of the health claims in the advertisement. Jacqui Stronach, a campaign supporter and trainer with the Breastfeeding Network came across the advertisement in a tutorial she was training to be Breastfeeding Helpers. She complained to both Trading Standards and the ASA. Her complaints were:

The complainant challenged whether:

1. the claim "Rooibos tea has been helping soothe digestive disorders for years" was misleading and could be substantiated;

2. the claim "her daughter slept peacefully, having suffered for months with colic and vomiting" implied Redbush could be used to treat colic and nausea;

3. the claim "Redbush has fantastic skin healing properties" was misleading and could be substantiated and

4. the claim "If bottle feeding your baby, add Redbush to the formula instead of water" encouraged an irresponsible practice.

The ASA was on good form and itself challenged whether the claims:

5. "Naturally infused with anti-inflammatory properties" and

6. "can help overcome the symptoms of nausea and headaches commonly found from drinking coffee" were misleading and could be substantiated.

Redbush tea claimed the advertisement had been prepared by Pregnancy and Birth following a readership survey. Pregnancy and Birth said it had prepared the advertisement from information from the company, which had signed it off.

The ASA ruled the advertisement was both misleading and irresponsible.

You can read the full ruling at:

It is worth highlighting:” We did not see evidence that showed Redbush could safely be added to formula instead of water or that it was clinically prescribed for babies for any purpose. We concluded that the ad was irresponsible.”

Redbush tea says it was a one off and they have no plans to run similar advertisements.

So the moral of the story is it is worth complaining. You can find information on how to do so at If you find something that you think is bad advertising please do complain. The more people that do so the better.

Baby Milk Action will continue to pursue its own complaints on occasion, though with limited resources we are concentrating on getting the law – and ASA codes – changed at the present time.

I am on leave this week so there will be a break in the blog, but I wanted to bring this to your attention and voice our congratulations to Jacqui.

And to the ASA. Well done.

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