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Product: Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages
Medium: Internet (Third Party Website), Social Media (Blogger's Own Page)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.2, 3.14, 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10
A social media post on an influencer’s Instagram account comprised of video content and included the following wording within the post.
“Have ye heard this? It has to be seen to be believed …. there is now a vegan fillet roll for those who want a vegan option.
Vegan, Vegan? Vegan!
@_applegreen_ Plant-Based Chicken Fillet Rolls available in selected stores
#PlantBasedFilletRoll #PlantBased #Vegan”
A sponsored article on a website including the following headline:
“This plant-based chicken fillet roll is the vegan alternative we’ve been waiting for."
Four complaints were received regarding the advertising. The complainants objected to the advertising on the grounds that it was misleading to describe the product as “Vegan Chicken” as the complainants believed that it was a breach of EU law to associate an animal produce with a vegan food. One complainant specifically referred to a ruling in the European Courts regarding dairy products.
Another complainant considered that consumers associated the word ‘chicken’ with meat and that the advertising was using that association to promote the product which they considered was misleading.
The advertisers acknowledged that the wording used to describe the product in certain promotional situations was incorrect. They said that they had worked with their PR agency to create a press release that was issued to media as part of their launch activity. They said that the release has used the words “chicken-free fillet roll’ and no other combination of words that might suggest an association with chicken. They said that the press release was used as a briefing document for the social media element of their campaign, which included partnerships with influencers and that while they had provided direction on content and messaging, influencers had the freedom to interpret and articulate messages in their own style and in a way that resonates with their own followers.
They said that the influencers concerned had used the correct term “chicken-free fillet roll”, however, they had also used the term “Vegan chicken fillet roll” and this had been mistakenly approved by the advertisers’ social media/pr team. They said that the content had been posted to the influencer’s account on a Friday evening and as soon as they realised their error the following Sunday, they had the content immediately removed. They advised that the influencers had contacted those who pointed out the error and apologised for the mistake.
In regard to the article online, the advertisers stated that the publication was briefed using the same press release document that only used the words “chicken-free fillet roll” and that the error occurred as part of their editorial process, not as a result of any direction on the advertiser’s part.
They apologised for the error in allowing the incorrect description being used and said that it was a genuine mistake.
The Executive reviewed the European case (C-422/16) referred to by one of the complainants and noted that it referred to the use of dairy products only. In order to seek clarification as to whether the European case applied in this instance, the Executive sought information from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland who confirmed that the poultry meat regulations did not apply to preparations. They said that it would be expected that where there is a reference to ‘chicken’ or other poultry or meat in advertising, that the final product would contain that poultry or meat as defined in the regulations.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints, the advertisers’ response and the information provided by the FSAI. The Committee noted that the briefing provided to the influencers and for the sponsored article had only included the term “chicken-free fillet roll”.
The Committee considered that the term ‘plant-based chicken fillet’ was likely to mislead taking account of the information provided by the FSAI. They noted that in the two advertisements complained about this term had been used and, in the circumstances, the Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 3.14, 4.1 and 4.4 of the Code.
The advertising must not reappear in its current form again.
The Committee acknowledged that the social media content had been removed as soon as the error was brought to the advertisers’ attention.