The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rejected complaints from lamb producers that a recent food safety ad by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) unfairly implied lamb was a high-risk food.
The ad, part of the FSA’s “Where are you really eating out?” campaign to promote food hygiene ratings in restaurants, showed an expensive-looking meal, featuring lamb cutlets, in a urinal.
It drew heavy criticism from the National Sheep Association and Eblex, which said the ad was “ill-judged” and wrongly associated lamb with poor food hygiene, when it was, in fact, rarely associated with food poisoning outbreaks.
“Now that it is aware of the depth of feeling about this image and the potential damage to the lamb industry, we hope the FSA will commit to not using it in any future campaign” - Peter Hardwick, Eblex
The NSA and Eblex both complained to the ASA, along with a third, unnamed complainant. But the ASA today rejected the complaints and said it would not take action against the FSA’s ad.
It said it was unlikely the advert would mislead consumers about the safety of eating lamb, and was clearly about where rather than what consumers were eating. The image of lamb cutlets was “incidental” and used to show high-quality food in an environment associated with poor hygiene, the ASA added.
The FSA welcomed the decision. Communications director Stephen Humphreys said: “We are simply reminding consumers to check hygiene standards when eating out. We always trusted the intelligence of consumers to realise we were making a point about the food establishments, not the food itself.”
Eblex said it accepted the ASA’s decision but was disappointed and maintained the FSA’s choice image was “ill-judged”. “However, now that it is aware of the depth of feeling about this image and the potential damage to the lamb industry, we hope the FSA will commit to not using it in any future campaign, particularly bearing in mind the current difficulties the sector is experiencing with lamb losses as a result of the extreme weather,” head of trade development Peter Hardwick said.
A spokeswoman for the National Sheep Association said it was also “disappointed” but would now focus on working with the FSA to “make sure something like this doesn’t ever happen again”. Although the FSA’s ad did not break advertising rules, the ASA told the NSA it could understand why it had caused upset, the spokeswoman added.