Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Marketers should not claim that food is "organic" or is "made with organic ingredients" unless it comes from farmers, processors or importers who: follow the minimum standards set down in Council Regulation (EC) 834/2007; are registered with an approved certification body; and are subject to regular inspections. The ASA has upheld complaints against ‘organic’ claims where the advertiser did not provide documentary evidence showing that a food product was certified by one of the organic certification bodies in the UK (Lean Muscle X, 21 August 2013; Kidz 5 A Day Ltd, 1 February 2012).
In 2021 the ASA and CAP launched a Climate Change and the Environment (CCE) project, to respond to the ongoing climate crisis and take action to ensure that environmental claims in advertising are not misleading or irresponsible. Updates about our work in this area are published here.
The project consists of several strands, including:
- Sector-specific reviews, focusing on previous ASA work on these issues, common claims in ads for these sectors, and any recent legislation or developments in understanding of their environmental impacts
- Research into consumer understanding of different types of environmental claims
- Targeted investigations, to establish new precedent and take action against advertisers who use green claims in a way that is likely to mislead or cause harm
- Updates to our existing resources, and creation of new educational material
Please see the updated CAP Advertising Guidance on The environment: misleading claims and social responsibility in advertising, and the new e-learning module that covers the rules on Climate Change and the Environment.
While this advice represents the current position, the ASA’s CCE project is actively reviewing our approach to these issues, which may lead to further rulings and updates to this guidance.
Unqualified, absolute claims such as “environmentally friendly” or “sustainable” should not be used to describe organic food production because all managed food production systems cause some damage. Claims such as “friendlier” or “more sustainable” may be acceptable if marketers can show that less environmental damage is caused than by conventional farming methods.
In 2017 the ASA considered an ad for an organic milk product which included the claim “Good for the land ... helping to support a more sustainable future”. The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the claim to mean that the production of the advertised product would have an overall positive impact on the environment, taking into account its full life cycle. Whilst evidence was supplied with regard the farming methods of the organic farm compared with its non-organic counterparts, evidence was not supplied to demonstrate then when taking into account the full lifecycle of production, the milk product had a positive environmental impact (Arla Foods Ltd, 7 June 2016).
Health and nutrition claims
There are strict requirements in place regarding health and nutrition claims made on foods (rules 15.1, 15.1.1). “Health” claims are those which refer to a relationship between a food or ingredient and health. There are particular rules in the CAP Code which refer to health claims and these rules apply to claims which suggest or imply a relationship between food and health, not just explicit claims, please see 'Food: Health Claims' and 'Food: General' for more information.
“Nutrition” claims refer to a nutritional benefit of a food (for example “high in vitamin C”). Only nutrition claims listed in the updated Annex of the EU Regulation (as reproduced in the EU Register) may be used in marketing communications (rule 15.1.1). Please see ‘Food: Nutrition Claims’.
Marketers should not make objective claims that organic food tastes better than conventional food unless they hold convincing taste test evidence (see Substantiation: Sampling references and consumer goods).
See also Farming methods.