A company marketing a hoodia skin gel has agreed to stop claiming that there is scientific proof that the plant aids weight loss.
In a ruling posted on its website on Tuesday, the Advertising Standards Authority said Planethoodia had undertaken "to clarify that its claims are purely based on consumer perception data, or survey data".
Cape Town consumer rights activist Dr Harris Steinman had complained about promotional material for Planethoodia's Slender Gel, saying there was no evidence for claims that hoodia suppressed appetite, or that hoodia or any of the other ingredients in the gel could be absorbed through the skin.
In response, the ASA said, Planethoodia conceded Steinman's points and said it had, in response, removed details of an apparent scientific study from its website.
"The respondent gave an undertaking to indicate in its advertisements that claims relating to the product's efficacy are supported to varying degrees by the participants of a four-week product test," the ASA said.
The ASA said this would significantly alter the way people interpreted the claims.
"In short, the interpretation would change from 'this product has been proven to work' to 'some people believe the product works'."
Planethoodia spokesman Dave Wainwright said on Tuesday that the company had indeed removed details of a study that it conducted on its hoodia gel, from its website.
"We're just going to keep it simple from now on, and say, this is what our customers believe," he said.
The multinational Unilever late last year announced it was abandoning its attempts to develop a slimming product based on hoodia.
It said using hoodia in a Unilever-branded product "cannot meet our high standards for safety and efficacy".
Unilever had spent 20 million Euros on the project, run in terms of an agreement with Phytopharm, which licensed the rights from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 1997.
(Sapa, February 2009)
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