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Columbus eggs must drop 'protects heart' claim

23rd October 2000

Following a complaint by the Food Commission to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Deans Farm, producers of Columbus eggs, has been told that its claim that the eggs can 'help protect the heart' must be withdrawn.

The ASA ruled that the claim implied that consumption of the advertised eggs could help to prevent heart disease and this amounted to a medicinal claim. Medicinal claims are not permitted unless the product has a medicines license. The company was told it must withdraw the claim and should seek advice before making further health claims. The ASA stopped short of declaring that the eggs could not affect heart health, as the consumption of one of the ingredients -- omega-3 fatty acids - was known to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The company had provided evidence from one study showing improved blood cholesterol effects of eating omega-3 enriched eggs, and the ASA accepted that there may be a health benefit, but that this should not be turned into a medicinal claim.

'Protect' is a medicinal claim

Following the ASA's announcement, we went shopping for other products that might be making similar medicinal claims. Unless these products have a medicines license, the claim may be judged illegal.

Actimel - the company leaflet describes Actimel as a product that 'protects your body from inside' (it says this three times) having said that it can 'maintain your body's natural defences'.

Beta-carotene supplements - manufacturer Superdrug claims their pills are 'formulated to help protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals which, in excess, can cause cell damage.' The company adds that the ingredients also 'help protect fats in the blood from oxidation'.

Selenium-ACE - taking these tablets, says the company, provides 'natural cell protection for the entire body'.