The advertising watchdog has banned an Actimel TV advert that claimed its yoghurt supported children's natural defences.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decided the advert was in breach of the rules because evidence provided by Danone did not uphold claims that the drinking yoghurt could help normal, healthy school-aged youngsters protect against common childhood illnesses.
The advert showed a bottle of the Danone product jumping over a skipping rope and featured the sound of children playing in the background. A voice-over stated "kids love Actimel and it's good for them too".
The ad then featured the sound of children cheering and the voice-over went on to state: "Actimel. Scientifically proven to help support your kids' defences."
The advert ended with the words "scientifically proven" stamped on the screen. Danone said 23 people in a study group of 6,000 across different age ranges had shown health benefits after drinking Actimel Eight of these studies were carried out on children up to 16-years-old.
The company submitted evidence from some of the studies to the ASA, two of which were carried out on hospitalised children in India who were suffering from acute diarrhoea or receiving medication for gastritis-related illnesses. The ASA decided these could not be applied to healthy children.
Two other trials, one in 1999 and one in 2000, examined the effect of Actimel on children aged between 10 and 18 months. The ASA found that the improvement of diarrhoea in the children was not significant enough to support the claims and that the mean age of the children (six months in 1999 and 15.5 months in 2000) was too young to apply to school-age children.
No health benefit was found in relation to asthmatic children and a reduction in the number of children with diarrhoea and allergic rhinitis was too small compared to the control group to prove Actimel was the cause of the improvement, the watchdog said. It also decided studies using children in day care centres in Russia and America found too small a reduction in common infectious diseases (CIDs) when drinking Actimel than when not.
In both studies children were also taking double the 100g recommended daily serving of the yoghurt drink.
The ASA concluded the ad must be banned as it broke rules for being misleading, rules relating to evidence and accuracy in food advertising. A spokesman for Danone said the company was "very disappointed" at the ASA's ruling.