Tomato puree debate sees five-a-day Knorr ad banned

LONDON - A row over tomato puree has seen an ad for Knorr soups banned over claims that it provided almost three portions of fruit and vegetables.

The Food Commission disputed the claims made by an ad for Knorr Vie soups, made by Unilever Bestfoods, which said: "Knorr Vie soups give you up to 3 of the 5 daily portions of vegetables you need!". It also said that because the soup contained added sugar, fat and salt, it was not healthy -- contrary to the ad's claims.

The argument descended into a technical debate about the level of tomato puree in Knorr soup, and the government's guidelines on the amount of tomato puree that could be consumed each day and still count towards five portions of fruit or vegetables.

While Unilever argued that the ad had been made before the Department of Health's scientific advisory committee on nutrition had set a limit on tomato puree's contribution to the five-a-day initiative, the Advertising Standards Authority, adjudicating on the complaint, said that the advertiser's claim was exaggerated.

The ASA also found the ad misled because it implied that soup was as healthy as non-processed fruit and vegetables, even though it was high in salt. It pointed out that the ad did not refer to consumer soup as part of a healthy balanced diet.

Cases such as this have drawn criticism for the Department of Health's five-a-day scheme, with brands finding the criteria for inclusion too strict. But Unilever has been criticised, in turn, by the World Health Organisation, for pushing its ice cream brand Solero as a way of getting five portions of fruit or vegetables a day.

A third complaint by the Food Commission, that the five-a-day guidelines did not apply to processed or composite foods, was not upheld.

If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum here.