Height growth claims: MFDS catches nearly 260 cases of problematic online advertising

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

A young girl taking her height measurement. ©Getty Images
A young girl taking her height measurement. ©Getty Images

Related tags MFDS health functional foods height growth

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has found 259 cases of problematic online food advertisements claiming to benefit “height growth”, “height promotion”, or positioned as “height nutrition” products for children.

The MFDS caught these cases following an inspection conducted in February on e-commerce websites and social networking services (SNS), including Instagram and Facebook.

These cases were found to have violated the Act on Labelling and Advertising of Foods.

According to the MFDS, most of the violations (74.1 per cent) were related to general foods products that make claims that cause consumers to confuse them as Health Functional Foods (HFF).

For instance, some of these general foods products had advertised themselves as containing “height growth nutrients”. 

Another 17.4 per cent of the cases had made false or exaggerated advertisements that made claims associated with the products’ benefits on body tissues.

Some examples include the claims “stimulating the release of human growth hormone (HGH)” and “supporting natural bone growth and bone strength”.

A few of them (5.4 per cent) made claims that misled consumers to perceive the product as a medicine by claiming to be “height boosting medicine”, or were effective in preventing and treating diseases (1.5 per cent), such as positioning the products for “children with frequent diarrhoea” or “children with anaemia”.

Another 1.2 per cent of the cases were HFF that had received prior approval for their advertising content, but the eventual advertisements had contents that differed from what was approved.

Lastly, one of the cases (0.4 per cent) had made height growth claims through purchase reviews, using statements such as “my younger brother eats this and he has grown taller these days”.

Prevalence of height growth products

Food products and supplements that promote height growth in children are becoming more common in the marketplace.

A search on the term “height growth” on South Korea’s e-commerce site Coupang alone yielded 27 pages of related products.

These products came in various formats, include tablets, sachets, carton packet drinks, powder drink, and jelly strips.

“Recently, as parents' interest in their children's height growth has increased, the number of cases of unfair advertising, such as advertising that food products are effective or effective in growing children's height, has increased.

“As a result, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has been conducting inspections since February to prevent consumer damage,”​ the MFDS said in a statement on March 7.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) has since been requested to block access to these online advertisements, and the local government in charge was also requested to take administrative action, said the MFDS.

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