A database that tracks dubious medical claims.
Claim number: 31
Claimant: Solal Technologies
Claim date: Dec. 1, 2009
Brand name: Naturally Sweet
Forum in which the claim was made: Advert in The Star
Claim methodology: Supplements
Frequency with which the claim is made by this claimant: Frequent
Actual claim: Sugar has harmful effects
Plausibility of this claim: Hyperbole
A Solal advert in the Star claims that too much sugar or artificial sweetners can cause cancer. This sets off a protracted battle at ASASA with the Sugar Association.
- Response no 76: ASASA Ruling on 2011-09-20
- Response no 74: ASASA Ruling on 2011-09-06
- Response no 69: ASASA Ruling on 2011-06-30
- Response no 64: ASASA Ruling on 2011-05-05
- Response no 59: ASASA Ruling on 2010-05-17
- Response no 57: Solal Technologies Appeal to ASASA on 2010-02-22
- Response no 56: ASASA Ruling on 2009-12-01
- Response no 55: South African Sugar Association Complaint to ASASA on 2009-11-01
Documents relevant to this claim
On 1 December 2009, Solal ran an advert for its product Naturally Sweet. The advert can be found here.
The advert claimed that too much sugar or artificial sweetners can cause cancer. It also stated, "More recently, research conducted in 2008 and 2009 has shown that sugar excess can suppress your immune system and increase the risk of developing cancer."
The South African Sugar Association lodged a competitor complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority. Solal did not address the complaint but tried to dismiss the complaint on several legal technicalities:
- SASA has no right to lodge complaint as they’re not a consumer.
- SASA did not identify which part of the Code was violated by Solal
- Basis of SASA’s complaint is factually incorrect
- The Directorate‟s refusal to rule on the points in limine first
The ASA Directorate rejected all these arguments and the Complaint was upheld.
Solal appealed 1 (22 Feb 2010) – Solal presented ASA with independent expert evidence of the harmful effects of sugar by Dr. Neil Burman. Dr Burman is the CEO of Healthspan Life that sells a sweetener amongst other products and ASA ruled he was not a credible independent expert. Solal’s arguments were dismissed.
Appeal 2 (17 May 2010) – Solal presents a report by Rael Koping as an independent expert. Rael Koping is a Cape Town based dietitcian and ASA accepted his letter as evidence that the Solal claims have been substantiated by research. ASA withdraws an Ad Alert against the Naturally Sweet advert.
The South African Sugar Association requested arbitration but Solal argued the product had been sold to another company (also Solal owned). So SASA put in a new complaint against the advertising claims for this product now under the auspices of the "new" Solal company.
The ASA upheld the Sugar Association's complaint on 5 May 2009. The Solal advert was ordered to be withdrawn.
Thanks to Harris Steinman, Roy Jobson and Faizel Slamang for information used to write this description.