National Advertising Review Board (NARB)

NARB Recommends S.C. Johnson Discontinue Unqualified “Non-Toxic” Claim on Windex Vinegar Glass Cleaner

For Immediate Release 

Contact: Abby Hills, Director of Communications, BBB National Programs 

703-247-9330 / press@bbbnp.org 

 

New York, NY – August 6, 2020 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), a division of BBB National Programs, has recommended that S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. (S.C. Johnson) discontinue the claim “non-toxic” on package labeling for its Windex Vinegar Glass Cleaner. However, the panel determined that a properly qualified non-toxic claim, which clearly and conspicuously discloses the nature of the health risks from product misuse, would be acceptable. The advertising at issue had been challenged by competitor The Procter & Gamble Company (“P&G”) before the National Advertising Division (NAD). Following NAD’s decision (Case No. 6353), S.C. Johnson appealed the finding. 

As support for its “non-toxic” claim, S.C. Johnson relied on the results of an internal standard it had developed, the “Non-Toxic Claims Framework” (“Framework”). Under this standard, S.C. Johnson toxicologists conduct a four-part analysis of a liquid cleaning product to determine if the cleaner can be considered non-toxic. NAD concluded that qualifying under the Framework does not rule out minor and transient health risks in case of product misuse. NAD also concluded that the Framework analysis did not properly support a non-toxic claim for Windex Vinegar because consumers would expect that a “non-toxic” product will not cause even temporary physical illness.  

The NARB panel agreed with NAD’s recommendation, expressing concern that an unqualified non-toxic claim will lead reasonable consumers to conclude not only that a misused cleaning product does not pose a risk of death or serious consequences, but also that product misuse poses no health risks, even those that are not severe or are more transient in nature.  

However, the NARB panel determined that the Framework could be used to rule out significant or irreversible health effects, and thus concluded that a properly qualified non-toxic claim would be acceptable for a cleaning product, including Windex Vinegar, that satisfies (passes) S.C. Johnson’s Framework standards. The qualifying language would need to clearly and conspicuously disclose the nature of any health risks from product misuse. 

S.C. Johnson stated that it will comply with NARB’s decision and noted that it “was pleased that NARB recognized that the Framework represents a careful analysis that can be used to rule out significant or irreversible health effects to people or pets, or comparable risks to the environment, even under use scenarios that are far out of line with intended consumer use practices.”    

Following NARB’s decision, NAD and S.C. Johnson agreed that the decision also resolved issues being appealed in a parallel NAD case involving the same claims on different cleaning products, NAD Case No. 6354 (Method Cleaning Products), and said the appeal was withdrawn. 

 

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About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. The non-profit organization creates a fairer playing field for businesses and a better experience for consumers through the development and delivery of effective third-party accountability and dispute resolution programs. Embracing its role as an independent organization since the restructuring of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in June 2019, BBB National Programs today oversees more than a dozen leading national industry self-regulation programs, and continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-directed marketing, and privacy. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org

About the National Advertising Review Board (NARB): The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) is the appellate body for BBB National Programs’ advertising self-regulatory programs. NARB’s panel members include 87 distinguished volunteer professionals from the national advertising industry, agencies, and public members, such as academics and former members of the public sector. NARB serves as a layer of independent industry peer review that helps engender trust and compliance in NAD, CARU, and DSSRC matters.