National Advertising Division (NAD)

NAD Recommends Church & Dwight Discontinue “Clinically Proven Absorption” Claim for Vitafusion Gummy Dietary Supplements; Advertiser to Appeal to NARB

 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Laura Brett, Director, NAD, 212.705.0109 / lbrett@bbbnp.org

 

New York, NY – March 23, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) recommended that Church & Dwight Co., Inc. discontinue the claim “clinically proven absorption” on product labels, the vitafusion website, tradeshow materials and during video advertisements for its vitafusion gummy line of dietary supplements. The claim was challenged by Pharmavite LLC, manufacturer of Nature Made dietary supplements. The advertiser has said it will appeal NAD’s findings to the National Advertising Review Board.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB National Programs’ self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

First, NAD found that many of the disclosures in the challenged advertising do not effectively limit the “clinically proven absorption” claim to vitamins C and D3 in vitafusion products that contain those ingredients. NAD determined that, as a result, consumers can reasonably takeaway a broader message, namely that the vitafusion products themselves have been tested and that all of their ingredients – not just vitamin C and D3 – demonstrate “clinically proven absorption.”  Although NAD noted that in several places on vitafusion’s website, the advertiser does, in fact, integrate the disclosure into the main claim (e.g., “[t]he only gummy vitamin brand with clinically proven absorption for vitamins C and D”), in other places on the website, the disclosure is not similarly integrated into or proximate to the main claim. NAD made similar findings – that the disclosure is not clear and conspicuous or in close proximity to the main claim - with respect to the relevant disclosure as it appeared on vitafusion’s product labels and in the challenged video advertisements.

Next, NAD considered whether the evidence in the record was sufficient to support a properly qualified “clinically proven absorption” claim, assuming that the advertiser appropriately limits the claim to vitamins C and D3 in vitafusion products containing those nutrients. In support of its claim, the advertiser submitted one acute clinical study evaluating a high-dose, single-nutrient formulation of vitamin C and two acute clinical studies (one pilot) evaluating a high-dose, single-nutrient formulation of vitamin D3. The studies evaluated the bioequivalence of vitafusion gummy vitamins and Nature Made tablet vitamins. The advertiser also submitted a high-dose multivitamin study that assessed the absorption of vitamin C and D3 from a gummy multivitamin formula. In addition, the advertiser submitted expert reports that explained nutrient absorption, as well as validated the proffered studies.

Although NAD expressed concern that these studies tested dosages dramatically different from the amounts of vitamin C and D3 present in the marketed products, it recognized it to be undisputed that vitamins C and D3 are absorbed through both active and passive transport mechanisms in the human body, and that high-dose studies may demonstrate the existence of absorption in lower dose products.

However, the challenger argued that the “clinically proven absorption” claim reasonably communicates that the advertiser possesses clinical proof of absorption at clinically meaningful levels. Whereas, the advertiser rejected this argument and maintained that “clinically proven absorption” communicates only the fact that vitamins C and D3 are absorbed and says nothing about the amount of vitamins C and D3 absorbed from vitafusion products. NAD determined that one message reasonably communicated by “clinically proven absorption” is that the advertiser has clinical proof of absorption in consumer meaningful amounts. Thus, the claim that vitafusion gummy vitamins will deliver a meaningful amount of nutrients to the body must be supported by evidence in the record. 

NAD noted that there was no reliable evidence in the record to support the advertiser’s argument that any increase in the amount of the essential nutrients vitamins C and D3 in consumers who do not receive enough of them from other sources will benefit these consumers in a clinically meaningful manner. Further, in response to the advertiser’s contention that there is no set amount of absorption of vitamins C and D3 that can be defined as “clinically meaningful” across the general population of consumers of dietary supplements, NAD noted that if the advertiser wishes to tout the “clinically proven absorption” capabilities of its vitafusion gummy vitamins, it has the burden of demonstrating the consumer meaningfulness of its results. For these reasons, NAD determined that the vitamin C and D3 studies were not a good fit to support the messages reasonably conveyed by the advertiser’s “clinically proven absorption” claim and recommended that it be discontinued.

In its advertiser’s statement, Church & Dwight said that it will appeal NAD’s decision.  Church & Dwight stated that it “is a strong supporter of the self-regulatory process,” however it “fundamentally disagrees with NAD’s conclusion that the claim ‘clinically proven absorption’ reasonably communicates to consumers the implied message that absorption of vitamins C and D3 occurs ‘at clinically meaningful levels’ . . . or that the challenged advertising making the claim is not substantiated.”

 

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About the National Advertising Division: National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation overseeing the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for truth and accuracy.

 

About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs fosters trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution and other programs. BBB National Programs is the home of industry self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs that include the National Advertising Division (NAD), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), BBB EU Privacy Shield, BBB AUTO LINE, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), Digital Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program), and the Coalition for Better Advertising Dispute Resolution Program (CBA DRM). The programs are designed to resolve business issues and advance shared objectives by responding to marketplace concerns to create a better customer experience. To learn more about industry self-regulation, please visit: BBBNP.org.