UK’s Advertising Standards Authority bans Special K ad

According to the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a television advertisement for Special K has exaggerated folic acid health claims. Special K came under scrutiny when they claimed that their product contained enough folic acid to contribute to the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs) in foetuses. This claim is okay to be used when an average serving of a food contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. However, a typical serving of Special K did not provide enough.

The ASA said, “We considered that the amendment to the wording of the authorised health claim from ‘folate’ to ‘folic acid’ was in principle acceptable, and we accepted that folic acid played a role throughout pregnancy. However, we considered that the key connection consumers would make with folic acid was its role in reducing the risk of birth defects such as NTDs.”

Kellogg’s, the makers of Special K, responded by saying that their advertisement of Special K and its folic acid levels were an excellent way to ensure that women of childbearing age maintain folic acid intake levels. Kellogg’s also provided nutritional information for Special K which showed that a 30-gram serving of the cereal provided 100 micrograms of folic acid—this covers 50 percent of the Nutrient Reference Value. Kellogg’s also said, “It was clear from the guidance provided by the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Department of Health that flexibility was permitted in the wording of health claims where the change had been made to aid consumer understanding.”

Despite Kellogg’s objections, the ASA ruled that the advert would not appear again in it its current form. They were asked to change the advert so that it did not exaggerate authorised health claims.