FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 2, 2006
CONTACT: LAUREN POPLAWSKI
SPLENDA ADS CONDEMNED AS MISLEADING TO CONSUMERS BY INTERNATIONAL ADVERTISING BOARDS, SUGAR FARMERS AND PROCESSORS
DEMANDS U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION ACT ON
MISLEADING MARKETING BY JOHNSON & JOHNSON
Washington, D.C. [November 2, 2006] – Representatives of sugar farmers and processors from around the world have joined this week in Washington, D.C. to demand action on misleading advertising of the chlorinated artificial sweetener Splenda. Australian and New Zealand sugar groups joined their American counterparts to call on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to condemn Splenda’s advertising slogan “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar” because it is misleading consumers.
In a letter supported by these groups, to the Federal Trade Commission, the Sugar Association stated: “We believe that Johnson & Johnson/McNeil’s advertising is a deceptive trade practice which violates the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45. Accordingly, it is appropriate for the Federal Trade Commission to take measures to investigate and end this advertising, which is causing consumers to mistakenly believe that Splenda is natural.”
Independent advertising complaints and claims boards in both New Zealand and Australia have ruled Splenda ads deceived consumers into thinking Splenda is all natural like sugar. These advertising bodies recommended or directed the ads be taken off the air.
“We brought the Splenda advertising campaign to the attention of the Australian Advertising Claims Board because we believe in truth in advertising and not misleading consumers,” said Greg Christensen of Sugar Australia. “Clearly the Advertising Claims Board shared our viewpoint that since such a small percentage [as little as 1.2% in their Granular product] of the ‘Splenda’ product is sugar derived the advertisements are misleading in claiming ‘made from Sugar.’”
In the New Zealand ruling, “the Board ruled that Splenda had misled consumers in its television advertisement by repeated reference to sugar and therefore implying that it had the same qualities as sugar,” stated Bernard Duignan of New Zealand Sugar Company, “there was a clear determination that the Splenda advertisement contained an overall ambiguity, which gave rise to the likelihood of a consumer being misled as a result of the comparison in the advertisement.”
Two years ago, the Sugar Association established the Truth about Splenda campaign, including a website, in an effort to educate consumers about the misleading advertising and the true chemical nature of Splenda. It also is intended to encourage consumers to petition the government for appropriate action. The campaign is a grassroots effort to combat the $40-$70 million dollars per year spent by Johnson & Johnson on deceptive and false advertising and marketing to promote Splenda products here in the U.S.
The Sugar Association, which filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in December 2004, claims the highly publicized marketing slogan used by Splenda “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar” leads consumers to believe Splenda is somehow natural, or more natural, than other chemical artificial sweeteners. “In fact, Splenda contains no sugar and it is not natural; its sweetness is derived from the chlorocarbon sucralose…just one of Splenda’s three ingredients – the other two are primarily fillers,” says Andy Briscoe, President of the Sugar Association.
“Two years ago a false advertising claim regarding Splenda was brought in the United States National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau. McNeil avoided an adverse decision by refusing to have the Better Business Bureau make a decision—something McNeil could do because the process in the United States is voluntary,” said Jim Murphy, legal counsel for the Sugar Association. “Since then, Splenda’s advertising has been ruled misleading in two other countries. We are confident that the numerous false advertising cases pending in the courts in the United States, including one brought by the Sugar Association—which cannot be so easily avoided—will reach the same conclusions as the agencies in New Zealand and Australia.”
Even consumer groups have voiced their opposition to Splenda’s misleading marketing terminology. “‘Made from sugar’ certainly sounds better than, say, ‘made of a chlorinated hydrocarbon,’ ‘made in a laboratory’ or ‘fresh from the factory,’” CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson remarked. “Splenda’s artificiality may present a marketing challenge, but that’s not an excuse to confuse consumers and lead them to believe that Splenda is natural or in any way related to sugar.”
For more information about the Truth about Splenda campaign, please contact Lauren Poplawski at Qorvis Communications, 202-496-1000, e-mail email@example.com , or visit the website at www.truthaboutsplenda.com.
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Full Statement by Greg Christensen of Sugar Australia:
“We brought the Splenda advertising campaign to the attention of the Australian Advertising Claims Board because we believe in truth in advertising and not misleading consumers. Clearly the Advertising Claims Board shared our viewpoint that such a small percentage of the “Splenda” product is sugar derived as to render the advertisement misleading in claiming “made from Sugar...” When we introduce new products, we expect them to stand on their merits. This is a standard we believe our community wants. We believe the Advertising Claims Board decision is good for consumers and should reassure them that there are proper mechanisms in place to provide this protection.
Full Statement by Bernard Duignan of New Zealand Sugar Company:
The New Zealand Advertising Standards Complaints Board upheld a complaint against Splenda by the New Zealand Sugar Company in July 2005. The Board ruled that Splenda had misled consumers in its television advertisement by repeated reference to sugar and therefore implying that it had the same qualities as sugar. They omitted to state or clearly show that it is in fact a low calorie sweetener.
As a leading and trusted New Zealand food company we pride ourselves on ensuring our consumers always receive balanced and accurate information. We were therefore extremely pleased to have our complaint upheld and to have the misleading Splenda advertising immediately withdrawn from television.
New Zealand advertising codes of practice require that comparative claims should be “unambiguous and clearly understandable so that there is no likelihood of the consumer being misled as a result of the comparison.”
There was a clear determination that the Splenda advertisement contained an overall ambiguity, which gave rise to the likelihood of a consumer being misled as a result of the comparison in the advertisement.
The Board noted in particular the repeated reference to sugar in the Splenda advertisement, and considered that this identified sugar as the market competitor, not the low calorie sweetener market in which Splenda is classified by the Food Standards Authority.
The panel clarified that there are two distinct markets for sweetening products, one being sugar and the other being the “not sugar” category.