The Renewell Water Facebook page shared two posts by ‘The Girl Against Fluoride’ which stated:
“Drinking fluoride and chemical free water improves thyroid function, the hormonal system and metabolism. Are you ready to take the fluoride free challenge and join the thousands of people who have regained their health by drinking pure water?”
“Some people believe that boiling water removes fluoride. This is not true. It increases fluoride levels which is why food processed in Ireland also contains fluoride. Is this one of the reasons why so many people in this country have problems with their thyroid? Fluoride lowers iodine levels and our thyroid needs iodine to stay healthy.”
The complainant considered that the claim that fluoride lowers iodine levels and that thyroid needs iodine to stay healthy were not scientifically accepted and were not supported with peer reviewed papers.
The complainant also considered that there was no evidence to support the claim that drinking fluoride and chemical free water improved thyroid function, the hormonal system and metabolism and that this claim was therefore misleading. He also referred to the fact that water was itself a chemical.
The advertiser stated that the claims were published on their Facebook page, following their reposting by a third party, ‘The Girl Against Fluoride’. They said that while they did provide some sponsorship for ‘The Girl Against Fluoride’, they had no control over what was said.
They said that they strongly supported the human right of freedom of expression and information and they welcomed such free expression on their social media and direct posts and re-posts of third party posts which they considered was an important way of sharing and expressing diverse views on a wide range of subjects.
They believed that because the claims being investigated were clearly not being made by Renewell Water but rather by a third party, they should not be construed as advertising by Renewell Water. They noted that the complainant was not contesting any of the claims or information originating from Renewell Water themselves, therefore, they considered the complaint was tangential to the Code of Standards for Advertising, Promotional and Direct Marketing as far as it relates to Renewell Water. They considered that not allowing them share a diversity of views by third parties effectively amounted to a serious restriction on freedom of expression and information. They referred ASAI to Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
They stated that in order to satisfy concerns and provide a workable way forward for all they proposed adding a statement on their Facebook page that made it clear that they take no responsibility and exert no control over views expressed by any third party. They agreed to make ‘The Girl Against Fluoride’ aware of this change of policy. They also stated that they would carefully consider any future re-posting of information from third parties.
The Executive advised Renewell Water that adopting or incorporating material posted by a third party that contained claims relevant to their own product was considered a marketing communication under the ASAI Code and was therefore subject to the provisions of the Code. The Executive therefore requested substantiation for the claims made.
In reply, Renewell Water queried whether the requirement for substantiation would be waived if they removed all such claims from their Facebook page and website.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the advertiser had not provided substantiation for the claims made but had removed the claims from their Facebook page and website. The Committee did not consider it appropriate for an advertiser to re-post such claims by third parties without appropriate supporting documentation and in the circumstances they considered the advertising was in breach of Sections 2.9 and 8.1 of the Code.
The Complaints Committee told Renewell Water not to re-post such claims by third parties without holding substantiation.