Advertising Standards Authority Adjudication

Date: 5 October 2011


ASA Adjudication on Bionetics Ltd
Bionetics Ltd
PO Box 80
Downham Market
PE38 8BG

Media: Internet (on own site)
Sector: Health and beauty
Number of complaints: 2
Complaint Ref: A11-154373
Ad
Claims on Bionetics Ltd website on 1 April 2011 under the subheading "How does the Bionetics Test work?" stated "We use samples of hair to carry out our testing. Hair has become a very important factor in forensic and complementary medical science due to its ability to store information about an individual. Although relatively new when compared to more conventional blood screening, hair testing is proving to be a popular non-invasive and cost effective alternative to normal tests."

"The screening technology uses Bio-Field Resonance Scanning to build up a picture of the dietary, pathogenic, toxic and nutritional imbalances which could be affecting an individual's health. This information is used to generate a personal report of the findings along with advice about actions and products that will help to correct the imbalances ..." Under the subheading "The Bionetics Test - £45.95 includes", the website stated "Comprehensive Hair Test including 115 foods + pathogens, toxins and nutrients".

On the website page entitled "Medical conditions", it provided an extensive list of medical conditions for which the hair could be tested; one of those conditions was acne. That page of the website stated "Whatever your condition you too can benefit from taking a bionetics test and begin to understand the factors that may have caused your problem and how to deal with it. Please select from the list below".

The website had a dedicated page to acne which stated "Comprehensive, low cost test, helps to identify the real underlying cause(s) of your Acne problem".

Issue
1. The complainants challenged whether the efficacy claims for hair testing were misleading and could be substantiated.

2. The ASA challenged whether the website discouraged people from seeking essential treatment for serious medical conditions.

CAP Code (Edition 12)
12.112.23.13.7
Response
1. Bionetics believed that there may have been some ambiguity with the 'Acne' page and they offered to remove the page and seek advice from the CAP Copy Advice team on their future advertising.

2. Bionetics said that the application process clearly stated that the test was not intended to replace a consultation with a practitioner and it was not intended to diagnose illness or disease. They said that they recommended consumers sought the advice of a qualified practitioner for all their healthcare needs.

Bionetics said that the report, which was generated as a result of doing the test, made clear that it was not intended to refer or state that the products they sold were for the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease or ailment. They explained that they advised consumers to always consult their physician if they were experiencing any medical problems or if they were taking prescription medicine.

Bionetics explained that their consultations were carried out by qualified practitioners, who as a minimum held Anatomy & Physiology and Nutrition Diplomas, and that their practitioners were also instructed to refer all clients with medical conditions back to their doctors for diagnosis and treatment.

Bionetics acknowledged that that information may not always be clearly available to consumers and they were willing to amend their website, in relation to the page which mentioned medical conditions, to make that clear.

Bionetics believed that they may hold evidence to substantiate their claims but did not wish to send it to the ASA because they had not yet completed their assessment of it.

Assessment
1. Upheld

The ASA welcomed Bionetics willingness to amend their website. However, we noted that the website made a number of efficacy claims about how the advertised test worked and how the test could help people with medical conditions.

We considered that the claims made on the website were objective, efficacy tests and we expected Bionetics to hold robust, scientific evidence to substantiate them. We noted that Bionetics believed that they held evidence to substantiate those claims but that they had not yet completed their assessment of it. However, we expected them to have assessed that evidence before they published their claims on the website.

We had not seen evidence that showed that the test could "build up a picture of the dietary, pathogenic, toxic and nutritional imbalances which could be affecting an individual's health" or that the test could test for intolerances of or allergies to "... 115 foods + pathogens, toxins and nutrients". We noted further that we had not seen evidence that the test could help "... to identify the real underlying cause(s) of [a consumer's] Acne problem". Because we had not seen any evidence to substantiate the general efficacy claims or efficacy claims in relation to acne, we concluded the claims were misleading.

The claims breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

2. Upheld

We noted that the website had a dedicated page to a number of medical conditions and made claims about how the advertised test could help with those conditions. We were concerned that nearly all of the conditions listed on that page were conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. We considered the claim "Whatever your condition you too can benefit from taking a bionetics test and begin to understand the factors that may have caused your problem and how to deal with it" suggested that the test could help to treat the conditions referred to on the website. We considered that the claim could discourage patients from seeking essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. Because of that, we concluded that the claim breached the Code.

The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

Action
The claims must not appear again in its current form. We told Bionetics not to make efficacy claims for their test unless they held robust, scientific substantiation for them. We told Bionetics to remove references to conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.


Advertising Standards Authority,
Mid City Place, 71 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6QT, United Kingdom

This article was posted on October 5, 2011.

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