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The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"For the manufacturers this is a major blow"
 real 56k

Jack Winkler, Action and Information on Sugar
"We want these claims removed from packaging"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 13:34 GMT
Court rules against Ribena
Ribena ToothKind
The makers of Toothkind have lost their appeal
Claims that a children's soft drink does not encourage tooth decay have been rejected by the High Court.

The ruling could have a significant effect on the claims that food and drink manufacturers can make for their products - particularly as many more so-called functional foods come on to the market.


We are very proud of Ribena Toothkind, and will continue to defend it against unfounded criticism

Graham Neale
GlaxoSmithKline
GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures Ribena Toothkind, went to the High Court after its advertising campaign for the product fell foul of the Advertising Standards Authority.

The company said its special formula with added calcium counters the impact of fruit acids on the teeth and minimises erosion.

However, the ASA ruled that the campaign was misleading, and that claims that the drink did not encourage tooth decay should be removed from the packaging.

The ASA has said it feels "vindicated" by the High Court ruling.

But GlaxoSmithKline said it was disappointed by the decision, and is considering whether to appeal.

The ASA carried out a two-year investigation before its ruling last July.

It reserved particular criticism for a poster campaign showing bottles of the product in place of bristles on a toothbrush.

It said the image implied that the product actively benefited oral health.

The ASA also said the claims were misleading, as the drink was simply less harmful than other sugary drinks, rather than not harmful at all.

'Vindicated'

Christopher Graham, the ASA's Director General said: "I am delighted that the court has upheld our adjudication.

Ribena Toothkind
The drink is accredited by the British Dental Association
"The ASA has been vindicated and this judgement acknowledges that we conduct ourselves in a thorough and professional manner."

But GlaxoSmithKline, stressed the judge's decision looked at the fairness of the ASA ruling, and not the science behind the product.

Graham Neale, head of GSK's nutritional healthcare business, said: "We are very proud of Ribena Toothkind, and will continue to defend it against unfounded criticism.

"We are very disappointed with the court's decision. However, this ruling does not change the fact that Ribena Toothkind is the only soft drink that is clinically recognised by many dentists as being the best alternative to milk and water."

He added that the British Dental Association's accreditation of the product had been renewed after a three-yearly review within the last week.

Judgement

In his judgement on the appeal the Honourable Mr Justice Hunt said: "The ASA were not only justified in coming to their conclusion but were duty bound to do so."

He rejected a claim by the company that an ASA expert adviser was biased against the company.

The judge also dismissed a claim that the ASA did not give proper weight to the British Dental Association (BDA), which had accredited the product.

He added: "All the evidence now before me is to the effect that Ribena ToothKind does not indeed produce the potential for tooth decay to any significant degree."

But, he said even "negligible risk" and "no substantial risk" were not "no risk".

He added that even the company's own expert evidence did not justify the absolute nature of the claim made.

The BDA had claimed the ASA did not take advice from the UK's leading experts.

The ASA was prompted by complaints from pressure groups such as Action and Information on Sugar.

The consumer magazine Which? also called on the BDA to withdraw its support for the drink.

It found there were still high levels of sugar in the drink, although not as high as in some other drinks aimed at children.

The BDA says that the presence of additional calcium in this type of Ribena has a protective effect not taken into account by the ASA.

Dr Geoff Craig, chair of the BDA's health and science committee, described how the soft drink was accredited three years ago "because oral health would improve if children drank this sort of product instead of conventional sugary and acidic drinks."

He added: "Our view has not changed and our independent panel of four leading researchers recently gave Ribena ToothKind BDA accreditation for a further three years."

GlaxoSmithKline says the blackcurrants it grows and the process it uses to develop the product mean the drink does not encourage tooth decay - and says it has 1,200 pages of scientific data to substantiate its claim.

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11 Jul 00 | Health
Court action over Ribena claims
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