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Fluoride Free advertisement in breach of advertising standards

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The Advertising Standards Authority Complaints Board has upheld a complaint about an advertisement on the Fluoride Free NZ website that stated: “Informed Doctors and Dentists say: KEEP FLUORIDE OUT…Swallowing Fluoride: is unsafe for babies; doesn’t protect teeth; can cause harm”, and found that an advertisement by the Ministry of Health for fluoride could be distinguished.

The Complaints Board found that, unlike the Ministry’s advertisement, the claims in the Fluoride Free advertisement were not corroborated by evidence. As the claims were presented as fact, rather than opinion, but were not substantiated by the advertiser, they were not saved by the allowance for robust opinion in advocacy advertising, and were likely to mislead.

In addition, the claim that swallowing fluoride is “unsafe for babies” and “can cause harm” unjustifiably played on fear. The Complaints Board concluded that the advertisement was socially irresponsible. Read the decision.

The Advertising Standards Authority last year rejected a complaint by Fluoride Free Hamilton about a pro-fluoridation advertisement placed last year by the Ministry of Health and Waikato District Health Board during the Hamilton city referendum.

It showed a family holding a sign that said “I vote for fluoride being added to water.”

The advertisement said fluoride makes a huge difference in reducing tooth decay, particularly for children, is safe and provides an affordable benefit to everyone.

The Authority ruled all three statements had been substantiated, none would deceive or mislead consumers and the advertisement had observed the requisite standard of social responsibility.

The Authority said the advertisement was clearly advocacy promoting the benefits of water fluoridation and it identified the advertisers and gave their contact details.

It also noted the DHB had a duty to provide information to the public and would be seen as an expert in the area due to its role. The DHB showed a “due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society” when preparing the advertisement.

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