Complaint against Food Standards Agency advertising campaign thrown out by ASA

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled there is no case to answer after a complaint by the Salt Manufacturers Association (SMA) regarding the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) recent salt awareness campaign.

The FSA's campaign features Sid the Slug, a 6 foot tall computer animated slug developed by the internationally acclaimed Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Sid communicates the message that eating too much salt can be bad for your heart in the FSA's TV, national poster and print advertising and on the dedicated campaign website.

The SMA had complained that Sid the Slug was an inappropriate campaign tool stating that " the Food Standards Agency character "Sid the Slug" is based on the fact that salt kills slugs and the assertion that it will also kill humans." It went on to argue that the poster was misleading. The ASA has now considered the complaint and decided that Sid is not guilty of causing offence or of providing a misleading impression of the effects too much salt can have on your health and your heart.

Statement from ASA

The ASA Council noted that the intention of the poster was to raise awareness about the danger of high salt consumption, not all salt consumption. It noted, furthermore, that the reference to "too much salt" was clear. It determined that the character of Sid the Slug, which played on the well-known effect of salt on garden slugs, is likely to be understood as a humorous, alliterative device. The ASA Council therefore took the view that the advertisement is unlikely to be interpreted as the complainants suggested or to cause serious or widespread offence.

Neil Martinson, Director of Communications, Food Standards Agency said:

"We are pleased that the ASA has decided that our new advertising campaign is unlikely to upset or mislead the British public. Sid the Slug was chosen to front the campaign as an amusing way to alert people to a very serious health message ? eating too much salt increases the risk of high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

"The campaign was based on up to date independent scientific advice from experts and supported by industry, consumer groups and public health charities. People are far more likely to take notice of health information if it is delivered in an entertaining or unconventional way. It just goes to show that Sid can slug it out with anyone."

The FSA's salt campaign takes into account the most current and indepth review of all the available scientific research. In 2003 the Scientific Advisory Committee of Nutrition (SACN), reviewed over 200 pieces of scientific evidence looking at the relationship between salt and health, including the Cochrane review and the DASH Sodium trial, and set a UK target to reduce our consumption to a maximum of 6 grams of salt a day. Over one third of British adults have high blood pressure and two thirds of them are not receiving any treatment. SACN, therefore, agreed that greatest benefits are likely to be achieved by taking a population approach to reducing salt intakes. The campaign also has the support of leading health charities and bodies including the British Heart Foundation, the Royal College of Physicians, The Stroke Association, the Blood Pressure Association, the National Consumer Council, Which? and celebrity chefs such as Antony Worrall Thompson, Nick Nairn and Anton Edelmann.

For further information about the campaign and Sid the Slug go to http://www.salt.gov.uk

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