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PUB calls out Sterra for 'misleading' water purifier ad

PUB calls out Sterra for 'misleading' water purifier ad

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National water agency PUB has issued a statement calling local water and air purifier brand Sterra's recent Facebook ad on the quality of Singapore's tap water "misleading".

In the ad, Sterra claimed that there is bacteria and algae in our local tap water in order to promote one of its water purifiers. The video showed a glass being filled with water from a tap and then a sample of the water being placed under a microscope. Under the microscope, microorganisms could be seen. 

Don't miss: EU bans misleading sustainability claims to curb greenwashing: Can Asia follow suit? 

The ad was picked up by PUB which told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that it take a "serious view" on water quality. 

"Tap water in Singapore is safe to drink. Every day, water samples are taken from our distribution network across the island and tested," said PUB. "Our tap water complies with the Environmental Public Health (Water Suitable for Drinking) (No.2) Regulations 2019 and is well within the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality. There is no need for any point-of-use (POU) water treatment or filtering devices to further treat the water."

PUB added that the ad by Sterra was misleading and that it has since issued a number of advisories to Sterra to emphasise that the company should cease such "misleading advertisements".

"We will be issuing another advisory to Sterra in response to this latest advertisement," it said. 

The ad was also picked up by a PhD student at the Genomics and Ecology of EuKaryotes (GEEK) Lab at Nanyang Technological University's Asian School of the Environment. In an Instagram Reel, the student, Clarence Sim debunked Sterra's claims saying that the water it sampled very likely came from a pond. 

He identified diatom shells and leaf debris which are "common indicators" that the sample is from a pond. Sim also pointed out that what Sterra called bacteria was actually nano-sized algal cells that were unidentifiable. 

"Stop scaring Singaporeans that tap water is nasty. Just to be clear, Singapore‚Äôs tap water is safe for consumption, and you will not find these protists," Sim said. He added that Sterra should not use information they do not understand fully in their ads. 

Sim then took a sample of Singapore's tap water and put it under his own microscope to show that there was actually nothing in the water. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Sterra for more information. 

The news comes as more authorities clamp down on misleading advertising claims. Recently,  oil and gas company Shell had some of its advertisements banned after The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that it held misleading claims about how clean its energy production actually is, according to a statement by ASA. 

The affected ads included a poster, television ad and a YouTube ad. Shell UK responded by saying that its intent with the ads was to raise consumer awareness of, and increase demand for, the range of lower emissions energy products and services they offered, the availability of which was increasing through continued investment.

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Related articles:
Advertising watchdog takes down Hyundai and Toyota's electric car ads over misleading claims
Google accused of misleading advertisers and violating its own guidelines in new report 
Advertising Standards Authority takes down Shell ads over misleading claims 

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