ASA SCRUTINIZES USE OF FOLATE VERSUS FOLIC ACID AND THEIR RELATED CLAIMS / by Nikolaas Tilkin-Franssens

The UK Advertisement Standards Authority found a recent Kellog’s advertisement to exaggerate the meaning of an authorized claim relating folate to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy.

The concerned TV ad showed a pregnant women together with the statement “made with Folic Acid feeding development”. Below that statement it added that “a serving of Special K cereals contains folic acid contributing to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy”. According to Kellog’s, the used statements were based on the claim “folate contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy” which has been authorized under the European Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation 1924/2006. In practice, the actual wording of claims made on foods may deviate from the approved wording provided that the alternative wording is considered to have the same meaning for consumers and the conditions of use are respected.

As a result, the Authority accepted that the names folate - for which the claim is authorized - and its synthetic form folic acid can be used interchangeably. Kellogg’s had argued in terms of consumer understanding the term folic acid is preferred as it would be more commonly known, be generally perceived as a beneficial nutrient for pregnant women and be more easily absorbed by the human body. Further, the product did comply with the conditions of use because the product is a source of folic acid.

However, the Authority argued that addition of “made with Folic Acid feeding development” would imply a beneficial effect on foetal development different from the authorized claim. While there is an authorized claim for folic acid on the reduction of risk of neural tube defects in the developing foetus, a portion of Special K does not contribute the required 400 micrograms in order to make use of that claim. This made the Authority decide the ad exceeded the flexibility given on the use of authorized claims.

ASA Ruling on Kellogg Marketing and Sales Company (UK) Ltd (6 March 2019) - link