National Advertising Division Finds Certain Claims for One Health Certified Poultry Products Supported; Others Found Unsubstantiated; One Health Appeals

New York, NY – February 21, 2023 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that One Health Certification Foundation (OHC), an Iowa non-profit responsible for the One Health Certified standard, provided a reasonable basis for certain advertising claims related to its certification of poultry products.

NAD also concluded that the name “One Health” did not require modification, and found that OHC provided a reasonable basis to support certain claims regarding antibiotic use.

NAD recommended that OHC discontinue:

  • General animal welfare claims and avoid conveying the message that its certification program exceeds industry standards.
  • Superlative claims asserting that OHC is the best with respect to animal welfare.
  • Claims promoting OHC’s holistic approach to certification.
  • Claim that “prompt treatment of sick animals is required.”
  • “Antibiotic restrictions” and “responsible antibiotic use” claims as well as the implied claim that OHC-certified producers use antibiotics more judiciously than the industry standard and significantly exceed industry antibiotic use standards.
  • Environmental benefit claims.

 

These claims were challenged by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a non-profit corporation, and the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, an academic organization housed in the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. 

 

Impartial Claims

In assessing whether the OHC certification was independent, NAD considered whether OHC’s standards were developed by industry stakeholders, as well as any connections between OHC’s leadership and the meat industry.

NAD concluded that there was no evidence in the record that the standards creation process is dominated or controlled by industry actors and concluded that the OHC certification was independent.

 

One Health Claims

NAD considered whether consumers are likely to confuse the advertiser’s One Health Certified name with the One Health Initiative, a collaborative approach adopted by entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization to address concerns such as zoonotic diseases (infections that spread between people and animals), antimicrobial resistance, food safety, and environmental contamination.

Based on the plain language of the name “One Health,” NAD concluded that the name did not convey an expressly false message of association with any organization or principles, or, for that matter, any provable claim at all. Given the lack of evidence of consumer confusion and NAD’s conclusion that “One Health” was not an expressly false claim, NAD concluded that the name One Health did not require modification.

 

Animal Welfare Claims

General animal welfare claims: 

  • The challenger took issue with OHC’s general animal welfare claims of “Responsible Animal Care,” and others, including for example that OHC “enables farmers and producers to prioritize animal health and welfare while working toward safe, responsible, and transparent animal care.” 
  • NAD found that these claims, which appear in the context of a certification program, convey a message that certified products have met higher animal welfare standards compared to the rest of the industry.
  • In the absence of evidence that OHC’s standards are superior to industry standards, NAD recommended that the claims be discontinued and that OHC avoid conveying the message that its certification program exceeds industry standards.

 

Superlative claims: 

  • Because OHC provided no evidence that its animal welfare standards meet or exceed the highest industry standards for animal care or that its approach is optimal, NAD recommended that it discontinue animal welfare superlative claims including “Consumer facing companies will be seen as leaders in assuring that animals raised in their supply chain are raised using responsible animal care practices.”

 

Specific practice claims: 

  • NAD also considered whether OHC’s specific animal welfare claims reasonably convey the message that certain practices are not allowed by OHC standards, including, for example that OHC chickens and turkeys are not raised in overcrowded, unsanitary, and disease-ridden facilities. 
  • NAD found that the advertising does not convey a specific message as to whether any of the alleged practices are allowed. Rather, NAD found that the seal clearly identifies OHC as the certifying organization and that animal welfare (along with four other metrics) are the subject of the certification. In this context, NAD found that consumers likely would not take away a message about specific practices that are allowed by OHC.

 

Holistic claims:

  • NAD determined that OHC’s claims promoting a holistic approach to certification (“Producers are committed to the betterment of human, animal, and environmental health,” and “The health of humans, animals & the environment are inseparable”), in context, convey an objective message that the OHC certification program has high standards in each of these three areas.
  • Having found that certain claims regarding animal welfare and, as discussed below, antibiotic resistance and environmental health are unsubstantiated, NAD found that these holistic claims are similarly unsupported and recommended they be discontinued.

 

Animal-based claims:

  • OHC calls its program the “only comprehensive, animal-based PVP [process verified] certification program” and claims that its program is for producers to market “animal-based products.” 
  • NAD concluded that, in context, the claim identifies that the certification is for animals in agriculture, such as chickens and turkeys and, in the future, other animals. Therefore, NAD determined that the claim is literally true and does not convey a message about superior animal care.

 

“Prompt treatment of sick animals is required”: 

  • Because OHC’s standards do not require the prompt treatment of sick animals, but rather, define mortality thresholds at which treatment is required, this claim is not supported so NAD recommended that it be discontinued.

 

Antibiotic Use Claims

NAD determined that OHC provided a reasonable basis to support the claim that medically important antibiotics are only given when medically necessary and that OHC-certified producers attempt to minimize the number of animals treated with antibiotics. 

Further, NAD determined that the claim “Antibiotic use is important,” which appears as part of the header “Why Antibiotic Use Is Important” on the advertiser’s website, does not convey a misleading message because it summarizes the contents of the paragraph below it on antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the need for responsible antibiotic use.

However, NAD determined that one message reasonably conveyed by claims of “antibiotic restrictions” is that OHC-certified poultry have met a higher standard than the prevailing industry practice. Because this message was not supported, NAD recommended that the claims be discontinued as well as the implied claims that OHC-certified producers use antibiotics more judiciously than the industry standard and significantly exceed industry antibiotic use standards.

 

Environmental Benefit Claims

OHC claims that it “[s]upports environmental stewardship classes in order to minimize the impact of animal production on the environment,” and one of the five core principles on the advertiser’s website as well as its certification label relates to the “environmental impact” of its program. NAD determined that the claims were not supported and recommended that they be discontinued.  

In its advertiser statement, OHC stated that it “will appeal NAD’s decisions regarding its antibiotic, animal welfare, and environmental claims” and noted that it “appreciates NAD’s time and attention to this matter.” The advertiser further stated that “consistent with OHC’s promised and agreed-upon approach to revisit standards every three years, OHC will be revisiting its standards to ensure its label remains accurate.”

Appeals of NAD decisions are made to BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate-level truth-in-advertising body of BBB National Programs.

All BBB National Programs case decision summaries can be found in the case decision library. For the full text of NAD, NARB, and CARU decisions, subscribe to the online archive.

Contact: Abby Hills, Director of Communications, BBB National Programs
703.247.9330 / press@bbbnp.org 

 

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