An advertising campaign for baby milk was banned for claiming the product helps to develop the brain and nervous system of young children, a watchdog said today.
The magazine ad for Hipp Organic was headlined "We've learnt from the breast" and said the follow-on milk contained essential Omega 3 fatty acids for healthy brain and nervous system development, adding: "All this ensures organic goodness to complement Mother Nature's good work. Trust your natural instincts."
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) challenged whether Hipp Organic's claim that the milk aided brain and nervous system development could be substantiated.
Defending the ad, the company said alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) was an essential fatty acid supplied through diet and was necessary for healthy mental development in toddlers.
The claim in the ad related solely to the role of ALA in normal and healthy development of the brain and nervous system and was not about mental performance, it added.
However the ASA said the claim "essential Omega 3 fatty acids ... for healthy brain and nervous system development" implied a specific health benefit from the use of the product.
It said that information given by Hipp Organic "was not sufficiently robust to support the product's claims in relation to healthy brain and nervous system development", adding: "We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading."
The ASA ruled that the the ad must not appear again in its current form and told the company not to use claims in future that refer to children's development and health that do not comply with advertising regulations.
Hipp Organic said in a statement: "This health claim has been submitted to the European Food Standards Agency for approval under new regulations, but as yet an opinion has not been published.
"Until this decision has been made and incorporated into law, Hipp believes that the claim 'essential Omega 3 fatty acids for healthy brain and nervous system development' is justified in the advertisement under the transitional arrangements in the regulations.
"However, the ASA have not interpreted the law in the same way - hence their ruling that it was misleading - and Hipp has agreed to amend the advertisement claim in the short term.
"With over 50 years' experience in organic nutrition for babies, Hipp Organic takes customer complaints very seriously. It is considering the ASA adjudication carefully and will take the necessary action."