A TV ad promoted Quorn. The ad showed a freshly prepared bowl of what appeared to be spaghetti bolognese and then featured a pack of mince being removed from a kitchen top and replaced with a similarly-sized pack of Quorn mince, while on-screen text stated "80% LESS SATURATED FAT".
The complainant challenged whether the comparative nutrition claim "80% less saturated fat" complied with the EU Register of Health and Nutrition Claims for Foods.
Marlow Foods Ltd stated that the claim "80% less saturated fat" was based on a comparison between Quorn mince and lean beef mince. They referred to EU legislation and guidance in relation to nutrition and health claims, and said those required comparative nutrition claims to compare the composition of an advertised food against a range of foods of the same category. They said the guidance defined foods of the same category to mean "alternatives for consumption". They considered that Quorn mince and lean beef mince were clearly "alternatives for consumption".
Marlow Foods provided data which compared the fat content of Quorn mince against lean beef mince from the major UK supermarkets. They said, where possible, the healthiest version of mince available in each store was used for the comparison. They highlighted that their data showed that the nutritional content of Quorn mince, when compared to lean beef mince, fulfilled the requirements of an "80% less saturated fat" claim.
They also asserted that within the ad the visuals clearly showed that the comparison was being made with beef mince. They highlighted that 40% of the ad showed the swap sequence between Quorn mince and beef mince, and said the device of swapping Quorn mince for beef mince was well established in the market and that this was the first complaint that they had received about the ad. In addition, they said the dish showcased in the ad was spaghetti bolognese, and provided the results of consumer research conducted by Quorn Foods and an article from the Daily Mail, which showed it was one of the nation's favourite mince based meals. They also provided the results of further research, conducted by Quorn Foods, which showed that of the top ten cookbooks sold on Amazon UK, four contained recipes for spaghetti bolognese, and all of those four recipes suggested the use of beef mince. They also highlighted that the top ten search results for "Spaghetti bolognese recipes" on Google.co.uk suggested that beef mince should be used. Therefore, they believed that it would be clear to viewers that the comparison was being made with minced beef. They stated that if they had compared Quorn mince with standard beef mince then the difference in saturated fat would have been even higher. Therefore, they maintained that the comparison of Quorn mince to lean beef mince was fair to consumers and did not give their products an unrepresentative advantage. Finally, Quorn said the ad was no longer appearing and they did not intend to use it again.
Clearcast endorsed Marlow Food's comments. They felt the ad made a clear comparison between mince beef and Quorn in both the voice-over and the visuals, which clearly showed a packet of mince beef being substituted with Quorn accompanied with a very large super stating the claim "80% less saturated fat". Clearcast also stated that they believed the substantiation submitted by Marlow Foods was sufficient to support the claim, since the ad did not make any explicit health or nutrition claims, but merely stated a compositional comparison between Quorn mince and lean beef mince.
The ASA noted that according to EC Regulation 1924/2006 on Nutrition and Health Claims made on Foods (the Regulation), which was reflected in the BCAP Code, only nutrition claims listed in the Annex of the Regulation were permitted in ads promoting foods and that marketers must ensure that they met the conditions of use associated with the claims in question. In addition, the BCAP Code required comparative nutrition claims to compare the difference in the claimed nutrient to a range of foods of the same category which did not have a composition that allowed them to bear a nutrition claim.
We noted that Marlow Foods had intended the claim to be understood as a comparison between Quorn mince and lean beef mince. We considered that the purpose of the Quorn mince featured in the ad, as the main part of a meal, meant it was an alternative to meat, and so it was valid to compare its nutritional properties to meat.
We understood that in order to bear a "reduced saturated fat" claim, the sum of saturated fatty acids and of trans-fatty acids in a product bearing the claim had to be at least 30% less than the sum of saturated fatty acids and of trans-fatty acids in a similar product. Also, the content in trans-fatty acids in the product bearing the claim had to be equal to or less than the content of trans-fatty acids in the similar product. Having reviewed the information supplied regarding the fat content of Quorn mince and the comparator products selected we considered that the product met the conditions of use associated with a "reduced saturated fat" claim. We also noted that, unlike Quorn mince, the comparator products were not able to bear a "low saturated fat" claim.
We understood that the European Commission's 2007 Guidance on the Implementation of Regulation 1924/2006 stated that when making a comparative nutrition claim between certain products and their alternatives, to ensure the comparison was not misleading, the Regulation "would require the reference product to be explicitly mentioned". Although the ad did not state that the comparison was between Quorn mince and lean beef mince, we noted that the initial shot appeared to show a bowl of spaghetti bolognese and the packet of mince shown clearly contained red meat. Therefore we considered that most viewers would understand, from the context of the ad, that the mince in the pack was beef mince. In addition, whilst we noted the comparator product was lean beef mince, we understood that if Quorn mince had been compared to standard beef mince the claimed percentage difference in saturated fat would have been greater. Although we considered it would have been preferable for Marlow Foods to have explicitly stated that the comparison was against lean beef mince, because we considered that, in the context of the ad, the visuals made the basis of the comparison sufficiently clear, we concluded that the claim was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
Only nutrition claims listed in the updated Annex of the EU Regulation (as reproduced in the EU Register) are permitted in advertisements.
Only health claims listed as authorised in the EU Register or claims that would have the same meaning for the audience may be used in advertisements:
www.ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/claims/community_register/authorised_health_claims_en.htm. 13.5.1 13.5.1 Comparative nutrition claims must compare the difference in the claimed nutrient to a range of foods of the same category which do not have the composition that allows them to bear a nutrition claim and 13.5.3 13.5.3 The difference in the quantity of a nutrient or energy value must be stated in the advertisement and must relate to the same quantity of food.
The European Commission has produced guidance on food categories that advertising industry stakeholders might find useful:
http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/claims/guidance_claim_14-12-07.pdf (Food, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.