6th August 2019

Hefty fine for false health claims

The Director of a business that made misleading claims about the health benefits of some of the products it sold has been fined over £7,500.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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This fine demonstrates the seriousness with which the Courts view food business operators who flout their legal responsibilities

A businesswoman in Bradford has been ordered to pay £7,695 for illegally claiming that products she sold had various health benefits, including weight loss and protection from viruses. The prosecution was brought by West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

Wendy Atkinson, Director of Modern Herbals Ltd, was sentenced at Leeds Magistrates Court on July 31. She had previously pled guilty to offences under the Nutrition and Health Claims (England) Regulations 2007 as well as an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990.

Under the 2007 regulations, claims must not be made about the benefits of foods and food supplements unless they are authorised by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and listed on a register. EFSA will only authenticate health claims when there is scientific evidence to back them up.

The Court heard that following a routine inspection in 2015, advice was provided regarding the legality of health claims made on the company’s website. Despite this, Atkinson continued to deliberately make unauthorised health claims on the website and consequently legal proceedings were initiated against the company.

Atkinson’s claims included that some of her products could reduce pain and inflammation, reduce swelling, increase metabolic rate to improve weight loss, aid digestion or improve respiration.

Councillor Pauleen Grahame, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Governance and Audit Sub-Committee, commented: “This is a significant case which serves to reassure the public that trading standards will ensure businesses compete on a level playing field and that consumers are not misled regarding claims associated with foods.

“By supplying the product using claims which were not backed by scientific evidence, the company was misleading vulnerable people who believed that their health conditions would be improved.”

David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “This fine demonstrates the seriousness with which the Courts view food business operators who flout their legal responsibilities.

“Consumers rightly expect to get what they pay for and trading standards will continue to take action against any businesses exploiting vulnerable consumers and making misleading and false claims.

“West Yorkshire Trading Standards will always work with businesses to help them improve and maintain standards, but we will not hesitate to take action against those who take advantage of vulnerable consumers by deliberately or persistently flouting the law.”