Britain's egg producers have been told they cannot advertise on TV in a ruling considered so daft that even the Food Standards Agency opposes it.
The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre refused this week to clear a re-run of the classic 1960s 'Go to work on an egg' executions, starring Tony Hancock.
The British Egg Information Service had hoped to run the advertisements to celebrate the British Lion Quality Standard Mark's 50th birthday. But it was told by the BACC that promoting eggs as a daily breakfast was "nutritionally unsound" and it could not air them.
The BEIS said it had offered to add a line to the adverts stating that eggs should only be eaten as part of a varied diet - but claimed the BACC rejected this suggestion because it was contradictory to the ad's overall message.
Besides the extraordinary nature of the ruling, there was confusion over why the egg advert should fall foul of the rules when others with a similar theme had been approved. One-shot probiotic drinks are often marketed as daily doses, while Kellogg's has recently run ads suggesting consumers eat two bowls of Special K every day for a fortnight to lose weight.
Rival Weetabix has been running ads for the 'Weetabix Week' - suggesting a different way to eat Weetabix every day. BACC copy group manager Alice Shelley told The Grocer: "The difference with probiotic drinks is that they do not purport to be an entire meal. Special K and Weetabix have been through the nutrition hoops and found to be satisfactory as a meal."
The ruling attracted anger and derision in equal measures from the public and the industry. Even the FSA, at loggerheads with suppliers and retailers over its Nutrient Profiling Model, which underpins Ofcom's restrictions on advertising food to kids, questioned the judgment.
"We make no recommendation about how many eggs people should eat in a week," said spokeswoman. "They are a good source of protein, and contain vitamins and minerals. The BACC did not seek our opinion before making this ban. Had it done so, we would have pointed out it would not have been banned under our Nutrient Profiling Model."
Shelley said: "We did not consult the FSA as we have our own experts in food and nutrition. They came to the decision that the message to start every day with an egg is nutritionally unsound. However, we are not saying eggs are unhealthy or bad. The advertiser does have the right to appeal. Likewise, the FSA is welcome to submit nutritional data for us to consider."
And in a bizarre twist, suggesting she was not in full agreement with the ban herself, Shelley added: "Personally I would love to see the ads back on air."
Kevin Coles of the British Egg Information Service said: "Hopefully the backlash will make the BACC rethink its decision."