ASA Wins Ribena Case Against GlaxoSmithKline

18 January 2001

The High Court in London yesterday threw out an action by food and pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline challenging the decision of British ad watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, to ban advertising claims made by the group’s Ribena Toothkind fruit drink brand.

Toothkind’s claim that it did “not encourage tooth decay” was barred by the ASA following an opinion given by dental specialist Dr Steve Creanor. Having spent around £19 million on development of the brand, GSK applied for a judicial review of the ASA’s ruling – the first to be heard since the recent creation of an independent appeals system.

In his ruling, appeal judge 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 the ASA’s expert adviser, Dr Creanor, was biased against the company, as well as its argument that the ASA failed to give proper weight to the brand’s endorsement by the British Dental Association – whose accreditation panel of four experts numbered two who had received substantial research grants from GSK.

Judge Hunt 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 even ‘negligible risk’ and ‘no substantial risk’ were not ‘no risk’." Even the company's own expert evidence, he said, did not justify the absolute nature of the claim made.

ASA director general Christopher Graham said: "I am delighted that the court has upheld our adjudication. The ASA has been vindicated and this judgement acknowledges that we conduct ourselves in a thorough and professional manner."

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)