No, PediaSure won’t contribute to excess weight gain, childhood obesity — ad regulator

Business Insider SA
A screengrab of the PediaSure advert.
A screengrab of the PediaSure advert.
  • The ad watchdog has ruled that an advert promoting a nutritional supplement would not influence parents to force their kids to over consume the product, and cause obesity in children.
  • The ad, which shows a young child growing considerably taller, was blamed for suggesting that it can magically circumvent genes.
  • But, the ad regulator said a reasonable parent would not interpret the commercial as such.
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PediaSure, a nutritional supplement targetted at children with feeding issues, will not cause overeating and childhood obesity, South Africa's Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has ruled.

The ARB's latest ruling considered whether an advert by the makers of PediaSure, Abbott Laboratories SA, created the impression that shorter children may be inferior or battle with their intellectual development.

In the advert, a boy child, who appears shorter than his mates during a class photo shoot, is hidden behind a tall classmate, prompting the photographer's instruction to move to the front row.

"If your child is not growing well, they may not be eating well, and can become sickly," a voice-over follows.

"That's why I recommend PediaSure, a source of essential vitamins and minerals… and that supports growth and immunity. Start to see visible growth in eight weeks with PediaSure," the voice-over says.

After taking PediaSure, the boy's growth is demonstrated alongside another boy who is bigger in size. The advert ends with the boy, donning a big smile, graduating, and he is now standing behind his classmates as they pose for the class photo.

The complaint stated that the advert suggests that the product is pitched as a potion that can circumvent genetics. It also blamed it for encouraging parents to force their kids to drink the product, implying that it would lead to excess consumption and obesity.

But, Abbott Laboratories, in its argument, said that PediaSure was promoted as a nutritional supplement for children who are susceptible to stunted growth and struggle with undernutrition. 

"The commercial states "If your child is not growing well, they MAY not be eating well...". This is notably different to a message that "If your child is short, he is inferior, and you need to give him this supplement to make him tall and superior," it said.

It said a reasonable parent would be able to tell the difference between their child being short due to genetic influence and, or, possible poor nutrition.

It also said it was unlikely that a reasonable person would think that the supplement could cure genetic shortness or that it would increase intellectual capacity.

The ARB dismissed the complaint, stating that it is unclear whether consuming the nutritional supplement, as directed, would contribute to excess weight gain and obesity.

"Any reasonable parent would consider alternatives, as opposed to a knee-jerk reaction to force a child to drink this product to make him tall and smart," the ARB said.

"The Directorate, therefore, does not share the Complainant's view that children are likely to suffer emotional and physical harm as a consequence of this commercial," it said.  

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