Beware food labelling regulations

12th February 2020

With Dry January over, it might seem like the perfect opportunity to redouble your efforts to market your hangover cure. Be wary, however. There are stringent food labelling regulations and marketing restrictions placed on such products.

Any product labelling that states or implies that it, may ‘help with…’, ‘alleviates,’ ‘counteracts,’ or ‘cures’ an “adverse condition,” such as a hangover, is likely to be classed as a medicinal product under the Human Medicines Regulations 2012. All medicinal products marketed within the UK must have a Market Authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”). In order to obtain a Market Authorisation from the MHRA, you will need to follow the Statutory Determination Procedure.

Whether or not a product is treated as a medicinal product or a food/drink, advertising these kind of products is not straightforward, as can be seen from the Advertising Standards Authority’s (“ASA”) recent ruling.

The newspaper advertisement for After-Alcohol Revival Drink was challenged on a number of issues. The ASA ruled that references to a number of different regulatory bodies within the advertisement were not compliant, on the basis that such references implied that the product was endorsed by those bodies.

The key part of the ruling, however, and which is relevant to all ‘hangover cures’ is that the Committee of Advertising Practice (“CAP”) Code has a rule against claims that state or imply that a food or drink could prevent, treat or cure human disease. Whilst health claims that are authorised on the EU Register for nutrition and health claims are permitted, any marketing material must make it clear that the health claim is only in respect of the nutrient, substance, food or food category for which is has been authorised, rather than for the product as a whole.

As can be seen from the ruling, marketing these types of products is not clear cut and requires careful consideration of the wording used. If you would like some advice on this or any other food labelling issue, please contact the Regulatory team.

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