U.K. Pinpoints "Healthy" Spreads for Misleading Ads

July 6, 2001

1 Min Read
U.K. Pinpoints "Healthy" Spreads for Misleading Ads

LONDON--A national regulatory agency for advertising stated that two "healthy" spreads are being promoted with misleading health claims. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has confronted the advertising agencies that represent Unilever's Van den Bergh Foods (maker of the plant-ester spread Benecol) and McNeil Consumer Nutritionals (maker of the polyunsaturated-fat spread Flora pro.active) for their roles in the ad campaigns.

The ASA (www.asa.org.uk) is an independent, self-regulatory body for print advertisements and uses the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion "to ensure that ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful." In regard to Van den Berg and its advertising companies Tarantula Communication Solutions and Saatchi & Saatchi, ASA found that the product was being promoted as a way to reduce LDL cholesterol by 10 to 15 percent in people with a healthy diet and active lifestyle. However, in the studies Van den Berg submitted to ASA, levels had only been reduced 10 percent in healthy, active people.

In the case of McNeil and its advertising company Lowe Lintas & Partners, the company reported that Benecol could reduce LDL cholesterol by 14 percent by using recommended amounts. However, these amounts were unrealistic because they ranged from 24 to 36 g/d. In addition, the advertiser's claim for the spread lowering LDL by 14 percent referred to results experienced by subjects between 50 and 59 years old; however, subjects between 30 and 39 years old only reduced LDL by 11 percent and 40- to 49-year-olds only reduced theirs by 9 percent.

ASA reported that Saatchi & Saatchi and Tarantula Communication Solutions would stop using this misleading information in its ads. ASA also asked McNeil to use future claims that applied to their consumer target and not to a select few.

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