UK advertisers still get into a pickle over “environmentally friendly” organic food claims.
Who: The Committee of Advertising Practice (“CAP”)
When: July 2001
The CAP, which draws up the British Code of Advertising and Sales Promotion, the UK’s self-regulatory code for non broadcast advertising, has published a “Help Note” on claims for organic food. The idea is that as these foods’ popularity increases, consumers should be able to make accurately informed purchasing decisions. Fewer “complaint upheld” findings against advertisers who have previously fallen foul of the Code when advertising these products is no doubt another desirable objective!
The Note reminds us that food can only be described as “organic” if it comes from farms, processors or importers who follow the minimum standards laid down in the EU Regulation (EEC) 2092/91 and are registered with and regularly inspected by an approved certification body. In the UK, that body is UKROFS or the UK Register of Organic Food Standards. UKROFS’ standards do allow organic farms to use certain “approved” substances such as paraffin oil, so the Note reminds us that if such substances are being used, it cannot be claimed that no chemicals, composts, fertilisers, plant protection products or similar substances are used in production. Claims that fewer such substances are used should, however, be acceptable. Similarly if such approved substances are used, “natural” or “no artificial aids used” are out, though “more natural” or “fewer artificial substances” should be OK.
Separately, as all managed food production systems cause some damage to the environment, “environmentally friendly” is out while “friendlier” should pass muster, and if the organic equivalent of a locally produced product has had to be flown in from Peru, the environmental effects of that process should be taken into account in the copy.
Other frowned-on broad claims without supporting evidence include “safer” or “healthier” claims (the CAP comment here that they have not yet come across convincing evidence that this is the case) or “tastes better”, though here reasonably representative consumer survey evidence should do the trick.
Why this matters:
The appeal of organic foods is only going to grow, so advertisers in the relevant sectors and their agencies should check out this Help Note, available in full at www.cap.org.uk