UK: ASA rejects complaints over FSA ‘urinal’ food hygiene advert

The Food Standards Agency ad

The Food Standards Agency ad - Credit: Contributed

THE Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dismissed complaints against a Food Standards Agency (FSA) food hygiene campaign which featured an image of lamb cutlets in a urinal.

EBLEX, a promotional group for beef and lamb funded by producers, the National Sheep Association and one private complainant contacted the ASA claiming that the FSA’s campaign associated lamb with poor food hygiene and was misleading.

However, the FSA said that the campaign, carrying the slogan: “Where are you really eating out?”, was aimed at getting consumers to check hygiene standards before choosing where to eat

The ASA has now concluded that it was unlikely the advertisement would mislead consumers about the safety of eating lamb and doubted they would see it as a comment about the meat used, rather than the hygiene issues highlighted.

It added that the advertisement focused on the standards of hygiene of “where” consumers would be eating, rather than what they would be eating and said that the image of the lamb cutlets was “incidental” and used to show high quality food in an environment usually associated with poor hygiene.

Stephen Humphreys, director of communications at the FSA, said: “We are pleased that the ASA rejected this complaint. The campaign was designed to challenge assumptions that an establishment’s appearance alone is the best way to judge standards of hygiene.

“We were 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.”

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At the time of the advertising campaign, EBLEX sector director Nick Allen said it had provoked strong feelings in the sheep industry, with a feeling that the advert unfairly associated lamb with food safety issues.

“While we support the Food Standards Agency’s aims of promoting good hygiene standards in restaurants, using lamb as the ‘poster boy’ for this campaign is ill-judged,” he said. “The reality is that lamb, and red meat in general, is rarely linked with food poisoning.”

The FSA campaign was also criticised by Suffolk-based local food campaigner Caroline Cranbrook, who condemned it as “dreadful”, and Chris Soule, chairman of the Suffolk branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, who described it as “ill-judged”.

Lady Cranbrook, who rears sheep, said: “This is a dreadful image – both the photograph and the impression it gives. People will remember the picture since it is so awful.

“The Food Standards Agency says that the advertisement is about food establishments and not about the food itself. But it is the picture that people will remember because it is so startlingly shocking. Inevitably there will be damage by association.

“It is not helpful of the FSA to produce an advertisement like this. Their money would be better spent on investigating the illegal practices that have been exposed in the international processed meat trade. Our own livestock farmers and the butchers who sell their home-grown meat are right to be indignant about such an ill-judged advertising campaign, however worthy its motives.”

Mr Soule said: “Our high street butchers offer the highest quality meats and operate to high standards.

“Occasionally we find that lower food standard ratings are given to businesses and this is often related to the paperwork that backs up these ratings not hygiene failings.”