ASA Adjudication on Organix Brands Ltd
Organix Brands Ltd
120–122 Commercial Road
4 July 2012
Food and drink
Number of complaints:
A TV ad, for a brand of toddler food, showed a young child asking "What's that?" in various scenarios. In one scene a pack of the food was emptied out into a dish for the child to eat. The voice-over stated "Help your children grow up knowing what real food is. Completely new Organix Mighty Meals are the chunkiest toddler meals. Like proper grown-up food". The child fed himself a spoonful of the food, which included a whole meatball.
Three complainants, one of whom was a health visitor, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it showed a child spooning a whole meatball into his mouth, which they understood represented a choking hazard.
Organix Brands Ltd (Organix) said they had developed Mighty Meals for one- to three-year-olds partly in response to customer feedback which told them that parents wanted chunkier foods for toddlers. They considered that eating chunky food was a positive step for children of that age and provided a response from a dietitian and consultant nutritionist to that effect. The information from the dietitian stated that exposure to a range of foods with different textures and tastes from an early age can help to develop a child's oral muscles, which are needed for speech development, and encourage good eating habits which last into adulthood. The dietitian noted that lumpy foods were by their nature likely to require chewing but said they were a vital component of a healthy diet in children. She drew attention to NHS guidance suggesting that children from the age of 12 months should be fed family foods, chopped where necessary, and that parents should stay with children to lessen the risk of choking. Organix pointed out that the child in the ad was 2 1/2 years old, and therefore able to eat regular adult food which would contain lumps.
Organix stressed that they were aware of the issues surrounding food safety and applied a rigorous testing procedure to all new products to ensure they were safe for children. They accepted that chunky foods, including their meatballs, may be a choking hazard for some children but argued that they had taken appropriate steps to minimise the level of risk. They stated that the product in question had been specifically designed to be soft, non-slippery and easily broken down in the mouth, and that several kitchen and factory trials had been undertaken to achieve the correct texture and density. Organix provided a copy of an example safety assessment undertaken on the meatball meal during the development stage, which demonstrated that they had considered the potential risks and acted to ensure that the product and packaging were safe. They also said children grow at different rates and they ultimately considered parents to be the best judges of their child's eating behaviour and how best to feed him or her; for this reason they had included on-pack advice that parents may wish to cut up the meatballs to a size appropriate for their toddler. They stated that when filming the ad the boy's mother had been present at all times and had been given the option of cutting up the food. She had chosen to leave the meatballs whole and allow her child to explore the food himself, and was standing by his side as he ate.
Organix said one final concern when making the ad had been the need to ensure the portion size and chunkiness of the food were accurately represented to the consumer.
Clearcast responded that they had ensured every precaution possible was taken in order to show the child in the ad in a safe environment. They said they did not consider the meatball to be a hazard because it had been designed to be soft and easily chewed and because the mother of the child had chosen how to feed him and was present at all times. They had wanted the food shot to accurately convey the contents of a standard pack to ensure parents would not be misled by the product and felt it simply showed a child enjoying his food. Clearcast said they believed the relatively small number of complaints received about the ad reflected the fact it was not a problem.
The ASA noted the various tests conducted on the meatballs before the product was launched. Whilst we acknowledged that there would always be some level of risk in feeding non-pureed food to toddlers, we considered that Organix had taken adequate steps to minimise the danger at the product development stage. These included trialling multiple recipes to ensure the correct density and texture of the food, and adding safety notices to the packaging to indicate that parents may wish to cut up the meatballs before serving.
We noted the dietitian's view that all chunky foods presented some level of choking risk but that they should nevertheless be included in a young child's diet. We also noted that, provided parents were on hand to supervise mealtimes, this approach was in line with NHS guidance. We acknowledged that every child was different and accepted that parents would be the most appropriate judges of how to feed their toddler. We noted that the child shown in the ad was of an appropriate age to be eating the product, that his mother had been happy for him to explore new foods and that the ad showed she was nearby whilst he ate. Because we were satisfied that appropriate measures had been taken to minimise the level of risk, including ensuring that the child's mother was shown to be present, we concluded that the ad was not irresponsible.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social responsibility), 4.1 and 4.4 (Harm and offence) and 5.2 and 5.3 (Children) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.