The Low-Carb, High-Fat diet, colloquially called the Banting diet after William Banting, has taken South Africa by storm with a recent endorsement by Professor Tim Noakes.

In a recent decision of the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa's Directorate ("the ASA Directorate"), in the case of CMT Labs / G Downs and others / 2015-2439F, the Directorate had to consider complaints by a number of individuals against the use of the following claims on CMT Labs' Facebook page, website and on its product packaging:

  • an advertisement headed "Banting Support Range;"
  • "an all-natural supplement support range to assist the body in maintaining optimal health and functionality for individuals following the banting/LCHF lifestyle;"
  • a "seal of approval" containing the words "Approved BANTING Friendly;" and
  • the range of products was described as "Banting Simplified...Premium Nutrition and Supplementation for Your Banting Lifestyle."

The Complainants argued that the claims were dishonest and misleading and therefore contrary to Section II, Clause 2 – honesty and Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – misleading claims, respectively, of the Advertising Standards Authority's Code of Advertising Practice ("ASA Code").

Clause 2 of Section II of the ASA Code states that advertisements should not be so framed as to abuse the trust of the consumer or exploit its lack of experience or knowledge or his credulity.

Clause 4.2.1 of Section II states that advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation which, directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity, inaccuracy, exaggerated claim or otherwise, is likely to mislead the consumer.

In this regard, the Complainants alleged, inter alia, that none of the products presented by CMT Labs ("the Respondent") had been "banting certified" as they are not used or recommended in any of the literature that sets out the nutritional therapy of the eating plan; the products do not have functions which conform with the nutritional therapy; they questioned who had "approved" the products as being "banting friendly" as there is no authority that can do so; and that anyone who knows about the nutritional therapy and lifestyle would not condone the supplements as the Banting eating plan is all about eating natural, actual food and not chemicals.

As no response was received from the Respondent to the complaints, the Directorate ruled based on the available information.

The Directorate found that the hypothetical reasonable person will interpret the claim that the products were "Approved BANTING Friendly" to mean that the products had been approved by some entity as being compatible with, and/or complimentary to the practice of banting. As there was no evidence presented to show this was true, the claim was found to be misleading.

With regard to the claim "Banting Simplified...Premium Nutrition and Supplementation for Your Banting Lifestyle" and "An all-natural supplement support range to assist the body in maintaining optimal health and functionality for individuals following the banting/LCHF lifestyle," the Directorate considered the Real Meal Revolution website which contains detailed information about the concept of banting and, in the absence of any argument by the Respondent refuting the complaint and submissions, it found that as the Banting diet focused on eating real food based on a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat, it did not appear to incorporate the taking of supplements. The Respondent's advertising was therefore found to be misleading and likely to exploit consumers' lack of knowledge regarding the subject of the Banting diet.

The Directorate accordingly ordered, inter alia, that the claims be withdrawn and that they may not be used again in the current format in the future.

While it is tempting for advertisers to jump onto the bandwagon of a craze, care must always be taken to ensure that claims are capable of substantiation and are not misleading.

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