BBB National Programs Archive

 

NAD RECOMMENDS HALO MODIFY, DISCONTINUE CLAIMS THAT MAY DISPARAGE COMPETING PET FOODS Challenge Brought by Hill’s Pet Nutrition

New York, NY – Feb. 16,  2012  – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Halo, Purely for Pets, Inc., modify or discontinue certain claims made in Internet advertising that state or suggest competing pet foods are unsafe, unhealthy or made with unsafe ingredients.

 

Halo’s advertising claims were challenged before NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., maker of competing pet foods.  Claims at issue included:

 

  • “Chicken meal “is not nearly as high a quality ingredient as real chicken, from both a health and safety perspective.”
  • “[F]ood with ‘by-products’ and ‘meals’” should be “shunned.”
  • “Meat meals such as ‘chicken meal’ are unfit for human consumption….that means unfit for our beloved pets as well….[i]f we shouldn’t eat it, [n]either should our pets!”
  • Pet foods made with meat meals or by-products “may choose to avoid 4D [diseased, dying, dead, or disabled chickens] and waste products.  But if they use chicken meal it can, and probably does, include 4D poultry and waste products, and there is no way for consumers to know for sure.  Plain and simple, if it says chicken meal, they’re allowed to use 4D and waste products—so they have little incentive to do otherwise.”
  • Halo’s raw chicken ingredient, “[m]ay be sold to human or pet food companies” and “[m]eets FDA safety and quality standards for human food.”

 

In this case, the advertiser argued that much of its advertising could not be considered “comparative,” because Halo did not specifically mention competing brands of pet food and because any comparisons made are between the raw chicken used by Halo and the chicken meal (or chicken by-product meal) in some other pet foods.

 

NAD noted in its decision, however, that an advertiser does not need to specifically identify a particular competitor for a claim to be considered comparative to a rival company.   Further, it is well-established that an advertiser is responsible for all reasonable interpretations of its claims, not simply the messages it intended to convey.

 

At the outset, the advertiser voluntarily agreed to permanently discontinue claims that might convey the message that pet foods containing chicken meal or chicken by-product meal are unsafe for pets, as well as claims that pet foods made with meals should be avoided and shunned. NAD found the advertiser’s action to be proper, given that there was no evidence in the record to support such claims. NAD further cautioned the advertiser avoid any claims in future advertising conveying the unsupported message that pet foods containing meal or by-product meal are unsafe for pets.

 

NAD noted that nothing in its decision precludes the advertiser from promoting that its products are made with raw chicken, or promoting that it does not use chicken meal or “by-product meal.”

 

However, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue claims – as they appeared in the context reviewed by NAD – that chicken meal and chicken by-product meal are “unfit,” “ unhealthy, inferior or ingredients to be “shunned or avoided.”

 

As for the advertiser’s statements regarding “4D” poultry, NAD said, “[i]t is one thing for the advertiser to claim that its product contains no 4D poultry, but it quite another to claim (either expressly or impliedly) that, at the very least, a significant number of competitors in the marketplace (such as the Hill’s) contain 4D poultry, or invite the consumer to distrust competing products when there is no evidence in the record that this is the case,” NAD stated.

 

Further, NAD recommended that the advertiser should discontinue claims that competitive pet foods containing chicken meal or chicken by-product meal are inferior, less healthy or less nutritious.

 

NAD recommended that the advertiser’s express and implied superior nutrition claims be discontinued and that, in future advertising, the advertiser limit its nutrition claims to the benefits provided by its own Halo Purely for Pets. NAD also recommended that the

advertiser avoid conveying the unsupported message that its Halo Purely for Pets products are fit for human consumption.

 

“Finally, NAD concluded that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its claim that Halo is, “the only brand recognized by the National Canine Cancer Foundation [NCCF]” but recommended that the advertiser modify the language, “because real food ingredients make a difference” to more accurately reflect the NCCF’s selection criteria for this award.

 

Halo, in its advertiser’s statement, said that while the company “does not agree with all of the NAD’s recommendations, it will make appropriate adjustments to its advertising consistent with those recommendations.”

NAD’s inquiry was conducted under NAD/CARU/NARB Procedures for the Voluntary Self-Regulation of National Advertising.  Details of the initial inquiry, NAD’s decision, and the advertiser’s response will be included in the next NAD/CARU Case Report.

About Advertising Industry Self-Regulation: The National Advertising Review Council (NARC) was formed in 1971. NARC establishes the policies and procedures for the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the CBBB’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) and the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP).

The NARC Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the American Advertising Federation, Inc. (AAF), American Association of Advertising Agencies, Inc., (AAAA), the Association of National Advertisers, Inc. (ANA), Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. (CBBB), Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).  Its purpose is to foster truth and accuracy in national advertising through voluntary self-regulation.

NAD, CARU and ERSP are the investigative arms of the advertising industry’s voluntary self-regulation program. Their casework results from competitive challenges from other advertisers, and also from self-monitoring traditional and new media. NARB, the appeals body, is a peer group from which ad-hoc panels are selected to adjudicate NAD/CARU cases that are not resolved at the NAD/CARU level. This unique, self-regulatory system is funded entirely by the business community; CARU is financed by the children’s advertising industry, while NAD/NARC/NARB’s primary source of funding is derived from membership fees paid to the CBBB. ERSP’s funding is derived from membership in the Electronic Retailing Association. For more information about advertising industry self-regulation, please visit www.narcpartners.org.