Campaigners Shocked As Watchdog Approves Controversial 'Low Fat Pork' Ad

The Advertising Standards Authority rejected Public Health England's independent research in favour of the meat industry's own data
The National Pork Association claims vegans want to 'undermine the pork industry' (Photo: We Animals)

The Advertising Standards Authority [ASA] has dismissed a complaint against a pork marketing campaign - which described the meat as 'low fat'.

The complaint, which was made by leading animal protection charity Viva! against the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board's [AHDB] 'Love Pork' ads, argued that pork medallions should not be considered 'low in fat'.

According to Viva!, Government health guidelines state that to be described as low-fat, a food must contain 3g or less total fat per 100g.

To be described as low-saturated fat, it must contain 1.5g or less saturated fat per 100g.

Complaint

A spokesperson for Viva! said: "We complained saying that pork medallions are not a low-fat food and that to claim they are is misleading. To support our complaint, we presented evidence from Public Health England's 2015 dataset.

"This is a Composition of Foods table that lists over 100 pork items, only one of which comes in as low in fat (under 3g per 100g). Pretty substantial evidence you would think!

"Not so, the AHDB dismissed the dataset out-of-hand as 'outdated' saying that pork medallion are a new cut of meat. Surely there isn’t a new part of a pig’s body only recently discovered? Magic medallions!

"In fact pork loin or tenderloin, of which medallions are simply a cut, have been on sale for decades."

Medallions

They added: "Love Pork's own website says 'loin medallions are oval cuts of the eye of the loin'. Public Health England's listing for loin steaks includes 'noisettes' – slightly thicker cuts, trimmed of fat – in other words medallions.

"The name may be new, but the body part isn't. 

"Lean pork loin steaks (including noisettes) are listed as containing 7.2g of fat per 100g. Lower than other cuts, but not a low-fat food by any stretch."

Data

The organization collected data from a number of supermarkets, looking at the fat content of pork medallions from Iceland, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Waitrose, Tesco and others.

"The fat content tended to range from 6.5-10g per 100g," Viva! said. "The vast majority contain substantially more than 3g, in fact, we only found one that was under.

"So how did the AHDB swing it? They did their own testing – they collected 27 samples of pork medallions from nine supermarkets and had the fat measured.

"Apparently these medallions were all low in fat. We simply can’t see how a random sample of 27 samples came in under 3g per 100g, unless they were 27 samples of the same one item we found? We have not been shown the details of their test."

Viva! says the meat contains more than 3g of fat per 100g

Meat industry

AHDB Pork Strategy Director Angela Christison described the ruling as 'fantastic' for the industry.

She added: "We are very pleased with the ruling made by the ASA today. We are delighted that the results from our research have been upheld and consumers can make healthy choices knowing the findings are robust.

"A great deal of work has gone into the latest pork advertising campaign and we worked closely with Trading Standards under a Primary Authority Partnership, in advance of launching our campaign, to ensure our claims around health and nutrition were accurate. Shoppers can be confident that industry is working in the best interest of consumers."

'Vegan campaigners'

National Pork Association Executive Zoe Davies called the ruling a 'common sense decision', saying she was 'delighted'.

She added: "Once again vegan campaigners have sought to undermine the pork industry, but we are delighted that the ASA has backed the claim that pork medallions are 'low in fat'. There is clear evidence to back it up.

"We would like once again to urge British consumers to seek out quality Red Tractor British pork as part of a healthy diet!"

Desperation

Despite the ruling, Viva! campaigners are positive, saying: "Of course Viva! is disappointed.

"On the one hand, the ASA were presented with test results from a group representing the meat industry. On the other hand, our evidence (all in the public domain) came from Public Health England (the executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the UK) and all the main supermarkets (nutritional information available online).

"However it is encouraging that so many people are giving up meat now that the meat industry is clearly on the back foot, trying and peddle pork by calling it a low-fat food! It smacks of desperation.

"All major health bodies agree that we need to eat less meat – for our health and to reduce the devastating impact livestock farming is having on the environment."

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Maria is the Editor of Plant Based News. A former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaChiorando and Instagram @mariachiorando.

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