Frozen food maker Birds Eye issued a poster that featured a photograph of two plates of curry. One plate had a cartoon monster poking out of the curry; the text below stated "Other curries contain artificial nasties." The text below the second plate stated "Ours don't."
The Advertising Standards Authority hauled up Birds Eye for a response after a complainant said the ad was "misleading, offensive and denigratory", because it implied that curries, other than the advertisers', contained "artificial nasties".
The advert seems to have played to current consumer sensitivities over food additives, sharpened after the country's largest ever food recall earlier this year, when authorities detected the banned potentially carcinogenic red colour Sudan 1 in a Worcester sauce ingredient, triggering the recall of over 600 well-known food items, that included curries.
"The advertisers explained that the poster aimed to communicate, that the advertisers' curries had been reformulated and now contained no artificial additives, whereas most other frozen and chilled pre-packed curries still contained artificial additives; they pointed out that the poster did not state "All other curries contain artificial nasties"," says the ASA.
Birds Eye claims that a public perception existed that "mass-manufactured and frozen food was full of harmful additives."
The ASA opted not to support the complaint, concluding that "artificial nasties" were likely to be seen as an informal phrase that - and this is actually little comfort to food manufacturers - described food additives.
The watchdog also considered that, because the poster did not name the advertisers' competitors or any Indian restaurants, it was unlikely to be seen as "denigratory to specific food manufacturers or curry houses."