NAD Recommends S.C. Johnson Discontinue “Non-Toxic” Claim on Method Cleaning Products; Advertiser to Appeal to NARB

For Immediate Release

Contact: Laura Brett, Director, NAD, 212.705.0109 / lbrett@bbbnp.org

 

New York, NY – March 24, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) recommended that S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. (“SCJ”) discontinue the claim “non-toxic” on package labeling for certain Method Cleaning Products, following a challenge by The Procter & Gamble Company (“P&G”), maker of household goods including Mr. Clean cleaning sprays. The advertiser has said it will appeal NAD’s findings to the National Advertising Review Board.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB National Programs’ self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

After considering the guidance offered by the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (“Green Guides”) and FTC precedent, NAD determined that the term “non-toxic,” as used on the label of the Method cleaning products at issue, reasonably conveys a message that the product will not harm people (including small children), common pets, or the environment. Importantly, NAD noted that a reasonable consumer’s understanding of the concept of “will not harm” is not limited to death, but also various types of temporary physical illness, such as vomiting, rash, and gastrointestinal upset.

NAD evaluated SCJ’s substantiation, noting that the applicable standard for the advertiser’s “non-toxic” claim, which is both a health-related claim and an environmental benefit claim, is competent and reliable scientific evidence. In support of its “non-toxic” claim, the advertiser provided NAD with results from a complex, four step Framework it developed in order to evaluate potential risk of harm posed by its product formulas, as well as expert declarations and an independent assessment of the Framework. After careful review, NAD determined that such evidence was insufficient to support the message conveyed that these products will not harm humans and the environment, including household pets.

NAD noted that for many of the challenged products, the advertiser and its experts based their conclusions regarding the appropriateness of classifying these products as “non-toxic” on a series of mathematical calculations. NAD concluded that while the techniques used to theorize the risk of harm posed by these products may be reasonable for evaluating toxicity within academia and the toxicological industry, they, by themselves, do not comport with the level of evidence a consumer would expect the advertiser to have in support of the strong message conveyed by its “non-toxic” claim. Without evidence demonstrating the real-world effects of the product’s toxicity, NAD determined that even when viewing the Framework holistically, as urged by the advertiser, the evidence fell short of providing the conclusive assessment of toxicity necessary to support a “non-toxic” claim. Thus, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim “non-toxic.”

In its advertiser’s statement, SCJ said that it “fundamentally disagrees” with NAD’s decision and will appeal NAD’s findings that the claim that Method cleaning products are “non-toxic” is not adequately substantiated. SCJ stated that it believes “NAD has created an unreasonable standard for ‘non-toxic’ claims that is not supported by the FTC or any other regulatory body.”  SCJ added that its “science-based substantiation meets and exceeds the FTC’s and NAD’s standard of competent and reliable scientific evidence, and is fully consistent with the FTC’s intent to permit companies to make ‘non-toxic’ claims based on ‘competent and reliable scientific evidence.’”

 

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About the National Advertising Division: National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation overseeing the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for truth and accuracy.

 

About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs fosters trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution and other programs. BBB National Programs is the home of industry self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs that include the National Advertising Division (NAD), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), BBB EU Privacy Shield, BBB AUTO LINE, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), Digital Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program), and the Coalition for Better Advertising Dispute Resolution Program (CBA DRM). The programs are designed to resolve business issues and advance shared objectives by responding to marketplace concerns to create a better customer experience. To learn more about industry self-regulation, please visit: BBBNP.org.

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