ASA raps Flora for health claimCompany says it didn't intend to mislead consumers

28 June 2006

A newspaper ad which claimed Flora Pro.activ margarine 'helps keep blood vessels healthy' has been slated by the advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the manufacturer, Unilever, couldn't prove these claims.

The Flora advert said: 'A spread that not only lowers cholesterol but also helps keep blood vessels healthy? What have you been eating?'

'Lowers cholesterol'

It went on to say that the spread contained plant sterols, folic acid and B vitamins, boasting: 'Imagine, cholesterol lowering and a way to keep blood vessels healthy as part of a healthy lifestyle, both available direct from your kitchen.'

Unilever told the ASA that it didn't intend to mislead consumers and that the claim concerned maintaining health, not treating, preventing or curing a disease.

Unilever said research it had conducted, as well as external research, showed the ingredients and formulation of Flora Pro.activ could help cut cholesterol and, therefore, keep blood vessels healthy.

Not satisfied with proof

But the ASA was 'not satisfied'' that the company had proved a direct link between the margarine and blood vessel health. It said Unilever had failed to provide 'definitive evidence' to show the effect of the spread on blood vessels other than by helping to lower cholesterol.

It told Unilever not to repeat the ad or imply in future ads that the spread helped to maintain blood vessel health beyond the effect of lowering cholesterol.

Unilever said it didn't believe the claims were misleading, and it was widely accepted that plant sterols helped cut cholestorol, which helped keep blood vessels healthy. However, it agreed not to repeat the claim in the same form.