The UK Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that Tetley Tea’s advertisements claiming that tea is good for the heart were exaggerated and misleading.

The advertisements in question featured on roadside hoardings and featured slogans such as “Go on, live a lot”. One featured a ten-foot high flashing plastic heart.

The adverts claimed that Tetley Tea is rich in antioxidants that can help keep a person’s heart healthy.

“Consumers are interested in the links between diet and health and food companies are eager to associate their products with healthiness,” said Kath Dalmeny, Research Officer for The Food Commission. “Sales in the hot-drinks sector have been flagging over the past few years. But this is no excuse for companies like Tetley to make exaggerated and misleading claims to boost their sales.”

The Food Commission launched a complaint with the ASA, stating that:   

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  • Tetley Tea adverts made no reference to the consumption of antioxidants within the context of a healthy lifestyle. No single drink or food can guarantee heart health.

  • Tetley Tea adverts gave the strong impression that there is a proven link between antioxidants found in tea and heart health.

  • Tetley Tea adverts said: “Go on, live a lot.” The Food Commission believed that in the context of a “heart healthy” campaign, the advert could be understood to mean that if someone were to drink Tetley Tea they would live longer.

The ASA ruled that, although antioxidants might help prevent coronary heart disease, Tetley’s evidence did not address variables, such as the type of antioxidants in Tetley tea and the level of antioxidants absorbed by tea drinkers. The ASA considered that readers of the claim “Tetley is rich in antioxidants that can help keep your heart healthy” would infer that drinking Tetley tea benefited heart health but Tetley had not proved that it could or would. The ASA concluded that, because the health benefits of drinking Tetley tea had not been proven, the claim was misleading.

Regarding the “Go on, live a lot” slogan, Tetley argued that drinking tea was associated with “living life to the full” and the claim was a play on the phrase “Go on, live a little”. The ASA ruled that, because the poster linked the headline with the claim that Tetley could help keep their heart healthy, readers were likely to interpret the claim “Go on, live a lot” as meaning drinking tea would help prevent heart disease and prolong life. Because the advertisers had not provided evidence to show that Tetley affected longevity, the ASA considered that the claim was misleading.

Nick Kilby, Tetley GB Marketing and Development Director said he was “astonished” by the ruling.

“There is a lot of independent scientific evidence out there to support tea as a healthy drink.

“We have not received a single complaint from consumers and are still 100% confident in our marketing approach.

“It is important that we don’t give up on our quest to promote the health benefits of tea, and we are considering our options for future campaigns.

“It will be a sad day for the British cuppa, if we are completely gagged on this subject,” Kilby was quoted as saying by BBC Online.

To view the ASA’s ruling, click here.