6 June 2001
Tesco organic claims attacked – again

By Isabel Davies

ADVERTISING watchdogs have upheld a complaint about Tesco for publishing a leaflet on organic food which could mislead consumers.

The supermarket claimed that organic agriculture “was a method of farming that avoids the use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers for growing crops”.

But the complainant objected to the leaflet, claiming it was misleading, as some of the chemicals permitted for use on organic crops were artificial.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld the complaint, rejecting Tescos arguments that the statement had come from the Soil Associations website.

The ASA noted that, under EU regulations, some man-made substances were allowed to be used on organic crops, such as basic slag and soft soap.

It ruled that readers would regard some of these substances to be artificial and concluded that therefore the claim was misleading.

The Soil Association said it was surprised by the ASAs ruling and accused it “splitting semantic hairs”.

Francis Blake, Soil Association technical and standards director, said the organisation stood by its statement that organic farming avoids the use of artificial inputs.

“No artificial inputs are permitted in organic standards expect by specific permission under exceptional conditions or immediate threat to the crop,” he said.

“In our opinion this means avoid,” he said.

It is the second time that Tesco has been censured for its claims about organic food.

In May 2000 it was forced to withdraw claims that organic food tasted better than conventionally grown produce.

Other supermarkets have faced similar problems.

In June 2000, Sainsbury was asked to delete claims that organic produce only cost “a little more” and was “good for you”.

Meanwhile, the ASA has also upheld five complaints about an advertisement for a fertiliser aimed at grassland farmers.

The authority ruled that the manufacturers of Fibrophos had not adequately substantiated their claims that their product would produce “grass bursting with nutrition”.

There was no evidence to suggest that use of the product would “keep your grazing stock healthy and more productive”, it added.

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