- Hold evidence to support claims about the removal of allergens
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) accept that in theory, products such as washing machines, air filters and vacuum cleaners can remove some allergens. However, in order to make such claims, marketers would need to hold robust evidence.
Marketers should not state or imply that their product is capable of removing all allergens if they do not hold evidence to support such an absolute claim. In 2011 the ASA upheld a complaint about a marketers advertising which claimed that its vacuum cleaners were “perfect for an allergy free environment”. During the investigation, the ASA established that the vacuum featured a filtration system which captured 99.5% of the most penetrative size of particles (allergens), and 99.99% of other sizes. Despite this, the ASA understood that the consumers would interpret the claim “…allergy free…” as removing all allergens and deemed the ad misleading (The Miele Company Ltd, 25 May 2011).
- Be careful if making allergy prevention claims for a device
Marketers should be aware that claims that devices like vacuum cleaners or air purifiers can ‘treat’ or ‘prevent’ allergies or allergic reactions as a result of the removal of allergens may render the product a medical device. In such cases, the device will need to be certified with an appropriate CE Marking from a Notified Body. See Medical Devices.
- Avoid making medicinal claims for non-medicines or unlicensed medicines
Claims to “prevent” or “treat” allergies are likely to be considered medicinal. Medicines must have a licence from the MHRA before they can be marketed.
- Avoid making allergy prevention or treatment claims for food supplements
Claims that state or imply a food prevents, treats or cures human disease are likely to be considered unacceptable.
In 2014 the ASA ruled against an ad for a food supplement which included claims such as “Your natural way to prevent springtime sneezes”, were considered likely to be interpreted as claims to prevent hay fever. The ASA considered the ad therefore breached the Code because it made disease prevention claims for a food (PharmaNord UK Ltd, 10 December 2014).
- Don’t advertise prescription-only treatments to the public
Prescription-only medicines cannot be advertised to the public either directly, or indirectly. In 2022 CAP issued an Enforcement Notice in relation to ads for prescription-only hay fever treatment, Kenalog, following a number of ASA investigations including Skincodes Aesthetics, Lucy Isabella Beauty and Aesthetics , Sarean Aesthetics, The Skin Clinic Faversham and Elite Aesthetic Clinic.
- Take care when making claims to diagnose food allergies and intolerences
Because neither CAP nor the ASA have, to date, seen convincing evidence that, when used in isolation, food allergy or intolerance testing kits can effectively identify food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances or the claimed effects of such allergies, any claims that testing services or testing kits can indicate potential food intolerances (and similar claims) would need to be supported by a robust body of evidence.
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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