UK watchdog ‘O-Kays’ Unilever healthy oil campaign

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

UK watchdog ‘O-Kays’ Unilever healthy oil campaign
The voluntary UK watchdog has backed a TV campaign for Unilever Flora Cuisine that was challenged over claims the omega-3 imbued cooking oil contained, “45% less saturated fat than olive oil".

The ad featured English broadcaster Vernon Kay discussing the product with his mother, who tells him she is “looking after his ticker”. ​Text on the screen states: "As part of a healthy diet and lifestyle", ​while a voiceover adds: "New Flora Cuisine, it's star treatment for the hearts you love."

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) backed the 45% reduction statement as a valid nutrition claim under new European Union health claim regulations​.

But it said the more general “good for your ticker” ​claim, “would need to be accompanied by an authorised specific claim”​ when a key section of that regulation kicked into life on December 14 this year.

Sam Cole , senior brand PR manager at Unilever welcomed the verdict that meant it would be, "continuing with the marketing campaign as planned."

"As an advertiser we conform to all advertising and marketing regulations and ensure that all the claims we make have a sound scientific basis as planned".

The ASA, which took advice from Clearcast – the body established by the country’s biggest broadcasters to self-police TV advertising – also noted the presence of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the product which it acknowledged were backed to deliver heart benefits.

“…because we had seen evidence that Flora Cuisine could contribute to the maintenance and normal functioning of the heart, compared to olive oil, because it would reduce saturated fat intake, we concluded that the ad was not misleading…”​ the ASA concluded.

Saturated fat consumption

In defending its campaign, Unilever pointed to a UK Department of Health study that showed over-consumption of saturated in the UK diet.

Unilever also affirmed that the 2006 EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) permitted comparative claims when the reduction/addition was more than 30%.

Article 9 of the NHCR states, in part: …a comparison may only be made between foods of the same category, taking into consideration a range of foods of that category. The difference in the quantity of a nutrient and/or the energy value shall be stated and the comparison shall relate to the same quantity of food.”

“Comparative nutrition claims shall compare the composition of the food in question with a range of foods of the same category, which do not have a composition which allows them to bear a claim, including foods of other brands.”

With this in mind, Unilever provided documentation that showed no on-market olive oil contained less than 13g saturated fat per 100ml, compared to Flora Cuisine at 7g/100ml.

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1 comment

Where is the actual science here?

Posted by Tony Barnes,

Given how EFSA are throwing out everything, I am quite annoyed at this being 'ok' out in the wild. I had a reasonable debate with the Unilever tech person, as fundamentally, reducing the amount of saturated fat in an oil intended for cooking with, and replacing that with polyunsaturated fat, is BAD for health. The saturated fats will not be damaged by the cooking process, whilst the unsaturated ones will.

This is another slap on the back for large scale pharmaceutical companies taking advantage of poor research on fat from back in the day.

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