Chew on this: gum pitched as beauty product

A new chewing gum marketed as a beauty product in Sweden has drawn fire from consumers for what they say are misleading health claims.

Vigo Gum, launched last week in Sweden, contains Vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, C, beta carotene and selenium and claims to be good for stronger hair, nails and healthy, elastic skin -- promises that have ignited the ire of nutritionists and consumers.

In an interview with Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, toxicologist Ulla Beckman Sundh expressed skepticism in the product, saying the ingredients would have little influence on the consumer's appearance.

Louise Ungerth of the local Stockholm consumer association also called the product the "dumbest" she's seen line store shelves.

Manufacturer Antula Healthcare, meanwhile defended their product on the premise that it was approved by the European Food Safety Authority and said the marketing claims were misinterpreted.

Beautifying confectionary products, also known as "beauty from within" in the trade industry, are part of a growing trend that has a long history in Asia and is starting to expand into Europe and North America.

But some experts say that the visceral reaction to this beautifying gum could serve as a litmus test for the market.

"Time will tell, but this whole episode could prove to be a high water mark with regard to health claims in products not normally associated with good health," Tom Vierhile, a director of Datamonitor which keeps track of new product launches said in an interview with ConfectioneryNews.com.

"Consumers are skeptical, and the onus has shifted more to manufacturers to prove that products work as advertised."

Vigo Gum certainly isn't the first product to try and seduce women with promises of bonbons and good skin. Nor is it the first to be received skeptically.

Nestlé, for instance, pulled the drink Glowelle off the market recently after launching to much media fanfare in 2008. The proprietary formula made of antioxidants, phyto-nutrients, botanical and fruit extracts claimed to replenish the skin's antioxidants to help fight free radicals and promote younger-looking skin.

In the UK, chocolate marker Mars was forced to withdraw claims that their Galaxy milk gave drinkers healthy skin and shiny hair. Their existing range is sold as simply chocolate milk.

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