Landmark ruling as ASA rejects complaints over AHDB advert

In in a landmark ruling for British farming, the Advertising Standards Authority has rejected complaints made about AHDB’s ‘We Eat Balanced’ advertising campaign 

The £1.5 million campaign, ran across TV, print and social media during January and February 2021, reaching up to 18.5 million people, according to AHDB.

Unique in its cross-sector approach to promoting health messages across AHDB’s sectors, it aimed to remind consumers of the role red meat and dairy play in a balanced diet. Its key messages focused on naturally occurring Vitamin B12 and how red meat and dairy production in the UK is amongst the most sustainable in the world.

The campaign attracted 487 complaints in total, including Humane League UK, The Vegan Society, Compassion in World Farming UK, Four Paws, PETA, Surge Campaigning CIC, Brinsley Animal Rescue and Viva! The challenged whether the ads were misleading because:

  • They implied that consumption of meat and dairy was required in order to eat a healthy, balanced diet when there was evidence to suggest that was not the case;
  • They misleadingly implied that consumption of meat and dairy was required in order to obtain vitamin B12; and
  • They misleadingly implied that livestock used for meat in the UK were typically outdoor grazed and had a minimal environmental impact when that was not the case.

Among its defence, AHDB argued that it used qualifying statements to promote a varied diet and to clarify that meat and dairy consumption was not required. It pointed out that the ads directed consumers to more detailed information by providing links to the website weeatbalanced.com

It pointed out that red meat and dairy were included in the Government’s Eatwell Guide, which they used as a guide, and in line with National Diet & Nutrition Surveys, they also sought to inform consumers and provide a balanced view regarding the health effects of consuming red meat. The website outlined limits set on red meat consumption by the NHS.

It said that the claims did not go beyond the AHDB guides to understanding nutrition and health claims regulations for beef, lamb and pork, on which they had been given Assured Advice by their Primary Authority.

Citing the evidence used by AHDB to back the adverts’ claims, the ASA rejected all three complaints, concluding, for example, that the ads would be understood by consumers to mean that essential nutrients required for humans could be obtained from meat and dairy foods as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

It also agreed that the ads showing, for example, ‘rolling fields with cattle and sheep grazing, and an open field with pigs and livestock shelters’ did not go so far as to suggest that the scenes shown were representative of all livestock farming in the UK, or that farming had a minimal environmental impact.

It said the ads were not misleading and no further action would be required.

AHDB’s Chief Communications and Market Development Officer Christine Watts said: “We are delighted with the ASA’s ruling and are grateful for the careful consideration they gave to all the points which were raised.

“For British farming this is an important day as we can continue to communicate the benefits around consuming red meat and dairy as part of a balanced diet. We work hard to ensure our campaigns are robust and evidence-based’

“We are now focused on preparing for the next stage of our campaign, which will launch later this year, tapping into consumer trends around diet, health and environmental sustainability.”

The ‘We Eat Balanced’ campaign has been nominated for The Food and Drink Federation’s ‘Campaign of the Year’ award.

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