A UK television advert for Danone's Actimel has been banned by the country's advertising watchdog for failing to back up its claim that the yoghurt drink provides health benefits to children.

The advert, which showed a bottle of the product jumping over a skipping rope and a voiceover stating: "Kids love Actimel and it's good for them too", received a complaint from the public.

The viewer challenged whether a claim in the advert that Actimel was "scientifically proven to help support your kids' defences" could be substantiated.

Danone said 23 people in a study group of 6,000 across different age ranges had shown health benefits after drinking Actimel. The company said that, of those studies, eight had been carried out on children up to 16 years of age.

Danone also said the claim made in the advert was supported by new studies that added to the scientific proof for the benefits of Actimel.

It explained that those studies had not been completed, or made available to specialist body Clearcast at the time the ad was approved, but that they had since been presented to Clearcast and its nutritional consultant.

Clearcast said it had received substantiation for the claim from Danone, which was assessed by the body's nutritional consultant, and that its consultant was satisfied the claim had been supported, and they had approved the ad on that basis.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), however, said the advert was in breach of the rules because evidence provided by Danone did not uphold claims that the drinking yoghurt could help "normal, healthy school-aged" youngsters protect against common childhood illnesses.

Danone submitted evidence from five scientific studies to the ASA, two of which were carried out on hospitalised children in India suffering from acute diarrhoea or receiving medication for chronic gastritis-related illnesses.

The ASA considered that both trials were unsuitable for use in support of a claim that was likely to be seen as referring to normal, healthy children.

After nearly a year of deliberations, the ASA ruled today (14 October) the advert must be banned as it broke rules for being misleading.

A spokesperson for Danone said it was "very disappointed" that the ASA has made the ruling, after discussions lasting over a year, in relation to a specific ten second Actimel advertisement, last aired in August 2008.  

"Our scientific claims are sound and based on a large body of evidence. We have 24 published clinical studies, all of which demonstrate Actimel's positive health benefits, in a variety of circumstances, on a range of people, from children to the elderly. These studies are designed and approved by a board of internationally recognised experts with extensive, directly relevant experience in human clinical trials, effects of probiotics in the gut, paediatrics and immunology," the company said.

Danone last month agreed to sell its 51% stake in a joint venture with China's Wahaha, bringing to an end their long-running dispute and years of court battles across the globe.