Unfounded promises in advertisements? Do not fall for humbug!


<div>The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has renewed the "Humbug or not?" leaflet designed for consumers. The purpose of the leaflet is to help consumers identify unfounded promises given in advertisements about the properties and effects of the products. The leaflet also clears up the differences between medicines and foodstuffs. </div>

The leaflet has been produced in collaboration with food control, pharmaceutical control, consumer and Customs authorities. A "True or false" test on Evira's web site supplements the leaflet, and gives consumers a change to test what they know about humbug.

Authorities urge consumers to choose products critically

In practice, authorities cannot react on every humbug product on the market or marketing of such products. Their source is often a shady mail order company that is hard to trace, or a company that operates outside Europe. Consumers should always choose products critically and learn to recognize humbug.

Criticality is called for when advertisements and labels make promises that sound too good to be true about the effects of the product. Such promises are often made in the marketing of weight loss products, guaranteeing quick results in the rate or amount of weight loss without any need to change one's living habits. For example; "you will loose at least 3 kg in the first 72 hours", or "you will loose weight without having to watch what you eat or exercise more". Living habits, such as your diet and exercise regime are the key factors to weight loss. No single product can therefore alone affect the rate or amount of weight loss. Any claims to that effect are humbug and prohibited by law.

Criticality should also be exercised for products marketed with superlatives, difficult or vague expressions or a satisfaction guarantee. Marketing based on recommendations given by an individual physician, a consumer, or a celebrity should also be considered with caution, as the experience of a single person does not provide adequate and reliable evidence of the effect of the product. Reliable evidence can only be obtained through scientific studies reviewed and approved by the scientific community.

Foodstuffs marketed as a treatment or cure to several different diseases should be regarded especially critically. No such wonder products exist. The marketing of food using medical claims is not allowed; such claims may only be used on medicines. The effect, safety and quality of medicines are assessed on scientific grounds as part of their approval process.

Consumers should always demand detailed information about the composition of the product. This also applies to products purchased by mail order or on the Internet. When placing orders on the Internet, always make sure that the company really exists. For example, does the company show correct contact information on the web site. Consumers who feel that they have been deceived or find marketing that they consider a humbug can report this to the food control authorities or consumer counselling in their own municipality.

The leaflet can be ordered on Evira's web site at http://www.evira.fi/portal/fi/evira/julkaisut/ (only in Finnish and Swedish)

For more information, please contact:

Marketing of foodstuffs
Annika Nurttila, Senior Officer, Evira, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24290
Sari Sippola, Senior Officer, Evira, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24283

Difference between medicines and foodstuffs
Erkki Palva, Head of Department, National Agency for Medicines, tel. +358 (0) 9 47334 288

Marketing in violation of good practice
Satu Toepfer, Senior Officer, Consumer Agency, tel. +358 (0) 9 7726 7296

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