8 June 2001

Tesco rapped over knuckles for claim

By Isabel Davies

TESCO has been censured for the second time in just over a year for making claims about organic food production that could mislead consumers.

Advertising watchdogs have upheld a complaint about a publicity leaflet which claimed that organic agriculture "was a method of farming that avoids the use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers for growing crops".

The complainant objected to the leaflet, claiming it was misleading because some of the chemicals permitted for use in organic production systems were artificial.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected Tescos arguments that the statement had come from the Soil Associations web-site and that other supermarkets made similar claims.

The ASA noted that, under EU regulations, some man-made substances, such as basic slag and soft soap, were allowed to be used on organic crops. It ruled that readers would regard some of these substances as artificial and concluded that the claim was misleading.

A spokesman for Tesco said the phrase used about organic production was one that was widely approved by organic experts in the industry. "However, the ASA has come to a view about this ruling and we will respond to that."

The Soil Association expressed surprise at the ASAs ruling and accused it of "splitting hairs rather than focusing on sound agricultural practice".

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

"No artificial inputs are permitted in organic standards except by specific permission under exceptional conditions or immediate threat to the crop," he said. "In our opinion this means avoids." &#42