False claimsWalkers ads probed over salt and fat claims

11 April 2006

Ads for Walkers crisps featuring Gary Lineker are being probed after complaints that they claimed the crisps were more healthy than they really are.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said viewers had complained that a TV commercial and poster had overstated health claims about the recently reformulated crisps.

The poster showed Gary Lineker holding a packet of ready salted crisps in one hand and a slice of bread in the other. It said the products contained 'as little' salt as each other. The TV commercial, also featuring the football star, referred to reduced levels of saturated fat.

ASA investigating complaints

An ASA spokesman said it was investigating six complaints about the poster and three about the TV advert.

He said: 'People believe they are misleading claims because they imply that the crisps are healthier than they actually are. We are looking into whether these adverts are misleading under the advertising code.'

Salt campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) has submitted a separate complaint to the ASA about salt and fat claims made in a leaflet for Walkers crisps.

Cash complaint

Cash Chairman Professor Graham MacGregor said: 'In the short-term, these products will make people, and young children in particular, very thirsty and in the longer term they will contribute to raised blood pressure and increased risk of strokes and heart attacks.'

Walkers said its adverts put crisps into context by comparing them with other popular foods. The leaflet which Cash had complained about invited consumers to visit the product's website where full nutritional information was available.

A Walkers spokesman said: 'We would be more than happy to speak to the ASA if they have any concerns. All our facts and figures were validated by an independent nutritionist prior to use and we therefore do not believe that our communications are misleading in any way.'

Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which can triple the risk of suffering a stroke and heart disease. Salt causes or contributes to more than 170,000 deaths a year in England alone.

At least 26 million people in the UK are eating more than the recommended 6g of salt per day and processed foods contribute about 75 per cent of the salt in our diet.