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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

COLGATE TOOTHPASTE ADS WILL NOT USE CALCIUM CLAIMS in the future unless additional scientific research is conducted to substantiate them, Colgate-Palmolive said in response to a recent decision by the National Advertising Review Board that the claims in question be discontinued. NARB upheld an earlier decision of the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus that the claims were not substantiated and should no longer be used. The case was originally brought to NAD's attention by Crest toothpaste manufacturer Procter & Gamble. Colgate had made the claims in TV ads for its Great Regular Flavor (GRF) toothpaste tube formula, which contains the calcium abrasive dicalcium phosphate dihydrate (DiCal). The ads stated: "And calcium has been in tubes of Colgate's Great Regular Flavor for years . . . Calcium helps Colgate's Fluoride penetrate teeth, for outstanding cavity protection." A message superimposed on the screen added: "Calcium formula not available in pumps." Colgate said in a March 26 NARB report that the commercials have been "long since discontinued," but that "nonetheless, . . . Colgate continues to stand by the adequacy of its substantiation." "As did the NAD, [NARB] treated the claims in this case as if they stated directly that the calcium in Colgate GRF improves the product's protection against cavities because it adds to the calcium that already exists in saliva," the report said. Colgate agreed that its intent was to convey this broader message, which it believes it substantiated. NARB noted that "it is clear that there is a dual source of calcium in human mouths when Colgate GRF is used, that calcium assists fluoride uptake, and that enhanced fluoride uptake lessens the risk of cavities." The panel concluded that while research submitted to NAD by Colgate -- an "in vivo human subject experiment" and other "human clinical data" -- "might be viewed as directionally supporting Colgate's position, . . . the evidence is inconclusive as to the effect of the Colgate GRF formulation on calcium uptake and cavity prevention in humans." NARB added that the "strongly directional evidence . . . does make the investment in more rigorous testing one worth considering for such an important claim." NARB recommended that Colgate conduct tests on tooth enamel in humans using the toothpaste over an adequate population to definitively prove the claims. Colgate originally disagreed with NAD's finding that the ad "did not differentiate the tube and pump products with sufficient clarity for viewers to understand that only the tube formula contained calcium." However, prior to the NARB panel hearing, the firm withdrew its appeal of NAD's decision. The company also had stated that the ad claim was approved by the American Dental Association, to which NARB responded: "The circumstances of that approval are, at best, unclear." NAD had earlier determined that Colgate failed to provide adequate documentation of the approval from ADA.

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