Statement of Alex Avery on Advertising Standards Authority (UK) Ruling on False Organic Claims

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Where are the United States Regulators?

On March 2, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the Soil Association, a trade and marketing organization that both campaigns for and certifies organic food, must stop making the claim that organic food is healthier than conventionally produced food. The ASA concluded that, "in the context of a leaflet encouraging donations to help promote organic produce over that produced by industrial farming, readers were likely to interpret the claim 'Organic farming produces healthy food' to imply that organic food was healthier than non-organic food and eating organic food would have no harmful effects." The Authority noted that the Soil Association "did not show organically-produced food conveyed noticeable health benefits over and above the same food when conventionally produced or that a diet of organic food could guarantee no harmful effects." The Authority also ruled that organic is not more humane to animals, as the Soil Association has claimed.

The issue of truthful and non-misleading marketing of organic foods in the U.S. deserves similar scrutiny. Extensive, publicly available research clearly indicates that U.S. consumers mistakenly believe organic foods to be healthier, more nutritious or have other qualities and claims for which there exists no scientific evidence or medical support. These beliefs are being driven by false and misleading marketing by U.S. organic products companies, their trade associations and the activist groups they fund.

Where are the U.S. regulators to protect consumers? Where are the industry and trade groups in protecting the reputation of U.S. food and agriculture against these types of marketing claims? False and misleading labeling and marketing of organic products with health, nutrition and safety-related claims is pervasive. How can we avoid the damage to the reputation of our food and agriculture industries among consumers in the U.S.? Purveyors of organic products know that fear sells, and that is what they have used time and again, attempting to impact consumer attitudes towards everything from beef to milk to apples. It is the responsibility of our government and industry standard setters to return the playing field to level and time to protect American consumers from the organic myth.

We urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture and responsible food, grocery and farming organizations to address this issue so that consumers are not misled into spending more of their limited food budgets on products falsely marketed as healthier or safer, and to address the damage caused to America’s traditional non-organic farmers who’s products are falsely disparaged as less safe.

Resources:

http://www.cgfi.org
http://www.stoplabelinglies.com
http://www.milkismilk.com
http://www.milkismilk.com/blog.html

Contact:    

Alex Avery

(540) 255-6378

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