by Biswadip Das
Dhaka, Oct 25 (bdnews24.com) – Health and nutrition claims in commercials produced for Bangladesh that Horlicks drinks and Maggi Noodles make children stronger have been found false and banned by Britain's advertising watchdog.
Nestlé and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), makers of Maggi Noodles and Horlicks, wrongly claimed their noodles and drinks would make children stronger, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled in separate rulings which throw unflattering light on the food and pharmaceutical giants' marketing in the developing world.
The media watchdog ruled the adverts were misleading and inaccurate, and should not be repeated, the British media reports.
The decision highlights the growing complexity of cross-border regulation of broadcasting and the tensions between different countries with varied rules on advertising claims.
The advert for Maggi Noodles was intended for broadcast in Bangladesh but was screened by mistake on Nepali TV, a satellite channel based in London that claims to broadcast to 58 countries, making it liable to investigation by the ASA.
The commercial for Horlicks was also shown by mistake by Nepali TV. The commercials were originally made for NTV.
Nestlé said that it had not intended to show the advert in the UK, where health claims are subject to greater scrutiny than in Bangladesh.
Shown on Nepali TV, the advert suggested that Maggi Noodles helped build strong bones and muscles. A boy playing tug-of-war with his friends ran in to see his mother, who explained to him: "Maggi is the best because it has essential protein and calcium that help to build strong muscles and bones." On-screen graphics depicted a yellow glow over a bicep and a knee, implying that those areas of the body were helped by the product.
The ASA suggested that Maggi Noodles did not pass new EU rules introduced in July 2007, under which advertisers have to substantiate every health claim made for products in the UK.
The media watchdog pointed out that while the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said that products advertised as high in 'protein' must be made up of at least 12 per cent protein; Maggi Noodles had 10 per cent protein.
Products high in 'calcium' must contain 15 per cent of the recommended daily amount in a 100g serving, but the calcium in the noodles was unknown.
The ASA said: "We considered that, because we had seen no evidence that the protein in Maggi Noodles would 'help to build strong muscles and bone' we considered that the ad was misleading and that Nepali TV should not have broadcast it."
Nestlé told the ASA that it would not have sought to have the advert cleared for broadcast in the UK.
In a statement, Nestlé said: "We rigorously ensure that all health claims made on Nestlé products comply with local legislation. The advert had been approved for broadcast and complied with the necessary legal requirements in Bangladesh, the market the advertisement was intended for.
"It was never intended for transmission in the UK."
In the Horlicks advert, television viewers were told that a test had been done on 869 schoolchildren given the same kind of food and teachers.
After timing their performance at running and swimming, the testers proclaimed – to cheering - that the Horlicks-drinking children were the superior performers. "Yeah, proof has been found!," the advert stated.
"Children have become taller, stronger and sharper. The Horlicks challenge – now proven. See for yourself."
GSK said that its fortified drink had been proved in a test to help Indian children improve their performance.
"We have not approved that advert for the UK," a spokesman said.
"It's a different formulation in India, a completely different product."
GSK explained to the watchdog that the advertisement had been broadcast on Nepali TV without their knowledge or consent as part of a re-broadcast deal organised by Nepali TV with a broadcaster in Bangladesh.
GSK said Horlicks was sold in Bangladesh on a nutritional platform and was carefully fortified. It contended the claims were true for children in that part of the world and were supported by clinical studies undertaken by India's National Institute of Nutrition.
The company added that the product complied with the regulatory requirements in Bangladesh and the product was not available in the UK and that they had no intention of advertising it in Britain.
"We considered that the unavailability in the UK of the product intended for the Bangladesh market did not mean the Code did not apply, especially given that Horlicks-branded products are available in the UK," the ASA said.
"We were concerned that Nepali TV was broadcasting ads without the advertiser's consent ... Because we had seen no evidence to substantiate the claims, we considered that the ad was misleading and that Nepali TV should not have broadcast it in the UK," it said.
The ASA directed Nepali TV not to broadcast the advertisement again in its present form.
The ASA added: "We reminded Nepali TV of its Ofcom licence obligations and of the requirement to have adequate compliance procedures.
We reminded them that they should broadcast only those ads that had been cleared by Clearcast or a similar compliance officer," the Advertising Standards Agency said.
Neither GSK nor Nestlé were directly reprimanded for the commercials, with both companies stressing that they had respected the rules in place in Bangladesh and had not given their permission for rebroadcast in the UK.
But the judgment questioned the evidence to support the claims made by the two companies, while focusing its criticism on Nepali TV for broadcasting the commercials in the UK without permission.