Are television commercials being monitored for false claims

Advertising with health - usually too much promised

Advertising with health promises - very little is allowed

Whether on the Internet, in magazines, radio, television or word of mouth, the providers of dietary supplements do not miss any opportunity to advertise their products as indispensable. They often stir up customers' fear of vitamin and mineral deficiencies and illnesses or promise quick success in exercise, weight loss or help with impotence. As a result, many people resort to the pills and powders offered. However, numerous products are at best superfluous and at worst pose a health risk. In order to put an end to the proliferation of unsubstantiated health claims, in 2006 the EU issued the so-called Health Claims Regulation (HCVO), a regulation on nutrition and health-related claims.

Thereafter the following applies in principle: The health-related statements about a product must correspond to the wording approved by the EU. The provider must also always name the substance to which the promise relates. Manufacturers can apply for approval of health and nutrition claims for certain substances in their products. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) checks whether there is sufficient evidence of the promised effects. However, numerous statements that have been requested have not yet been evaluated. This applies to almost all herbal substances such as ginseng or maca root, the so-called botanicals. If the manufacturer submitted an application for approval of a statement to the EU before January 19, 2008, he can continue to advertise his product with the corresponding substance with the statement until the final test.

Around 250 statements, mostly advertising for vitamins and minerals, cleared the hurdle by 2016 and were approved by the EU. You can find out what these are in the texts for the individual ingredients (via search). Manufacturers who add certain amounts of the substances to their products may advertise with the following statements, for example:

  • "Vitamin C contributes to the normal function of the immune system"
  • "Beta-glucans help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels"
  • "Wheat bran helps speed up the intestinal transit"

This applies to all types of food, including dietary supplements. There are special claims, so-called children's claims, for the particularly sensitive target group of children, which take into account the development and growth of children. The so-called health claims list has been continuously expanded since then.

Important: An approved health claim such as "Vitamin B6 contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism" does not necessarily mean that the dietary supplement is healthy or a useful addition to the diet for everyone. The permitted claims generally relate to nutrients that normal foods provide in sufficient quantities with normal needs and a balanced, varied diet. An intake beyond the requirement of the nutrient is not associated with an additional or improved effect, but can even be harmful in certain cases.

Advertising with health promises - not like this

The manufacturers were unable to provide sufficient scientific evidence for many of the statements submitted. For example, the following statements have not been allowed since 2012:

Disease-related advertising, so-called healing promises such as "Chromium helps against diabetes" are generally prohibited for food supplements (and all other foods) (Art. 7 (3) LMIV). Because food supplements are similar to pharmaceuticals in terms of their presentation, but by definition they are foods that can at best supplement normal nutrition. You can reduce your risk of disease due to nutritional deficiencies, such as: B. "Beta-glucan from barley has been shown to lower / reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood. A high cholesterol level is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.", But in no way cures an illness.

In general, the statements Not:

  • ambiguous or misleading, such as "product xy protects you from arteriosclerosis"
  • Arouse doubts about the nutritional suitability of normal foods
  • express that a balanced and varied diet can generally not provide the necessary amounts of nutrients
  • trigger fears in the consumer through a text statement or through images

More on the subject:

Advertising through the back door - the tricks of the providers

Manufacturers use many back doors to offer their products despite rejected health claims "healthy paint" to rent. They use vitamins and minerals for which "appropriate" statements are allowed. For example, cranberry preparations now also contain vitamin B6 or zinc. The manufacturer can advertise a contribution to the "normal function of the immune system" for them, even if the reference to "strengthening bladder health" is prohibited.

However, companies are relatively closely tied to the formulation of the claims, exaggerations are prohibited. A "contribution to the normal function of the immune system" must not lead to a "strengthening of the immune system".

Caution is advised, especially on the Internet. Because the operators of online shops, marketplaces or opinion portals are often of little interest in the legal regulations. They rely on the fact that their side of the state food control does not attract attention, invoke the responsibility of the sellers and authors or evade the access of the authorities through addresses that do not exist, are incomplete or are outside the EU.

The same applies to direct mail, direct mail and sales on "coffee trips". Here, uninhibited fables and miracle cures are promised. Even supposed customer ratings of products in online shops - even with verified purchases - are often "bought" and are intended to give the impression that a product has already caused incredible results for many other people.

Consumers felt misled here:

This is how you recognize dubious advertising - our checklist

  • Specific figures are given as proof of effectiveness, e.g. B. How many people the product has allegedly helped so far, by what percentage the disease rate has decreased, in how many days healing occurs or how many kilograms have been lost in how many weeks. No two people are alike and react very differently to each individual.
  • The fairy tale of Germany as a vitamin deficiency country. Allegedly, the decades of use are said to have depleted the arable land and led to foods that are low in vitamins and minerals. A look at scientific studies shows that this is not true.
  • There is no list of ingredients or other essential labeling elements for the product.
  • There is no indication that the dietary supplement is not a substitute for a balanced diet.
  • The promised effects do not relate to any ingredient of the product.
  • The information promises the increase or promotion of a body function beyond the normal level or improves or cures a disease.
  • Repeated references to the origin of the product from exotic regions (e.g. rainforest, Himalayas).
  • Allegedly helps where conventional medicine (has) failed, especially in hopeless situations.
  • Individual, allegedly personal experience reports are cited as evidence of the effectiveness and at the same time there is a lack of comprehensible data from controlled clinical studies.
  • Allegedly works against a multitude of different diseases that have nothing to do with each other, for example acne, AIDS, diabetes, cancer, neurodermatitis, rheumatism.
  • Is touted as "all natural" and should be free of any side effects.
  • Allegedly alleviates the side effects of the procedures that conventional medicine uses against the specific disease.
  • Should only be available in this quality for a limited time or only from "consultants" of this company.
  • It is said to have been used successfully for years / decades / centuries, but is not officially recognized by conventional medicine.


Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of December 20, 2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods. Status: December 13, 2014

Commission Regulation (EU) No. 432/2012 of 16 May 2012 laying down a list of permitted health claims made on foods other than claims about reducing the risk of disease and the development and health of children. Status: 08/22/2017

Regulation (EU) No. 1048/2012 of the Commission of 8 November 2012 on the authorization of a health claim made on foods with a view to reducing the risk of illness.

Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on consumer information about food. Status: 01/01/2018

Stiftung Warentest (2020): Manipulated stars. Reviews on the Internet. (accessed on 08/24/2020)