An "irresponsible" weight loss plug for a Chorley business posted on Instagram by reality TV star Jemma Lucy while she was pregnant has been banned by watchdogs.
The former Ex on the Beach contestant's post was banned for not being easily identifiable as an ad, and for encouraging "unsafe practices" during pregnancy as well as breaking rules barring weight loss claims attributed to food.
The post showed the heavily tattooed 31-year-old glamour model sitting at a table just in a bikini and socks, holding a mug.
Three packets were on the table, and text stated “I’ve been staying in shape with my go to @skinnycaffe products. I love the Coffee’s [sic], Hot Chocolate’s [sic] and the Thermosyn capsules are amazing!"
It added: "I love to use them as me and some of the girls have been seeing great results and they work with or without exercise.
"You can lose up to 7lbs in 7 days with Thermosyn. Right now you can claim your first packet of Thermosyn free by clicking here” and was linked to the Skinny Caffe website.
But watchdogs received 25 complaints about the plug posted on Instagram in May this year by Jemma who has more than 640,000 followers on the social media platform - easily classifying her as an "influencer".
Some people complained that it was not "obviously identifiable" as an ad while some, who knew that Jemma was pregnant, branded it "irresponsible" for encouraging the consumption of weight loss products during pregnancy.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) also challenged whether the claim “You can lose up to 7lbs in 7 days with Thermosyn” was in breach of rules for implying a rate or amount of weight loss attributed to consumption of a food.
An investigation was launched and all three issues were upheld.
The ad was found to be in breach of rules regarding recognition of marketing communications, responsible advertising, harm and offence as well as food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims.
The White Star Key Group, trading as The Skinny Caffe, said it knew Jemma personally and claimed that she posted the ad as a favour to a friend.
The firm, which is registered to an address in Blackpool but trades from an office in Chorley, also claimed Jemma had not implied that she used the products whilst pregnant, and stated that they did not target or actively promote ads to pregnant women.
Skinny Caffe also claimed that paying customers had informed them of the weight loss results.
Jemma stated that she didn't write the post’s content, which was provided by Skinny Caffe.
But all the complaints were upheld and the ad was banned by the ASA.
Jemma and Skinny Caffe were also warned to ensure that any future ads were "obviously identifiable" as marketing communications.
An ASA spokesman said: "Although we acknowledged the personal relationship between Skinny Caffe and Jemma Lucy, we considered that there was also a commercial relationship between them in relation to the promotion of Skinny Caffe’s hot drink products and Thermosyn capsules.
"Skinny Caffe provided Jemma Lucy with the products and the wording they wanted her to include when posting about those products, and she then produced the post on her Instagram account with a view to being involved in a full Skinny Caffe campaign in due course.
"Because Skinny Caffe had provided the wording they had sufficient control over the content for the post to be considered a marketing communication.
"We considered that they were therefore jointly responsible for ensuring that promotional activity conducted by Jemma Lucy on Skinny Caffe’s behalf was obviously identifiable as advertising."
He continued: "We acknowledged that the post did not make express reference to pregnancy, nor did we consider that Jemma Lucy looked noticeably pregnant in the picture.
"We understood, however, that there had been widespread press coverage of her pregnancy, and noted that comments under many of her Instagram posts made reference to her pregnancy.
"We therefore considered that the ad’s audience was likely to be aware that Jemma Lucy was pregnant.
"We noted that the current advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) indicated that 'dieting during pregnancy is not recommended as it may harm the health of the unborn child'.
"Further information from the NHS, in relation to pregnant women with a BMI of 30 or above, advised that they should not try to lose weight during pregnancy, as it might not be safe.
"We also noted that the NHS stated that eating a healthy, varied diet in pregnancy would help pregnant women get most of the vitamins and minerals needed, and only recommended taking folic acid as a supplement and to consider taking a vitamin D supplement."
He added: "The ad must not appear again in the form complained of.
"We told The White Star Key Group Ltd trading as Skinny Caffe, and also Jemma Lucy, to ensure that in future their ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications.
"We also told Skinny Caffe not to encourage unsafe practices, such as consuming products during pregnancy that were intended to aid weight loss, and not to make claims that referred to a rate or amount of weight loss for foods."