ASA rejects Iceland horsemeat claims

UK frozen food giant Iceland has been forced by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) to remove a national ad that claimed horsemeat testing carried out by the authorities was not “accredited”.

The national ad was published in the ‘i’ newspaper and read: “FOOD YOU CAN TRUST... Iceland has always led the way in developing Food You Can Trust”.

According to the ad, testing carried out by the Food Standards Agency Ireland (FSAI) did find traces of horse DNA at “one-tenth of one per cent” in two Iceland quarter pounder burgers. However, it claimed the testing methods used were not accredited and FSAI testing showed horse DNA in its products at levels 10 times below the 1% threshold.

“Two subsequent tests of the same batch of burgers carried out by two accredited independent laboratories found no evidence of contamination,” the ad said.  

It was also claimed that no horsemeat had ever been found in an Iceland product and all of its burgers were made in the UK and from British beef.

Of the two issues, which were made by one complainant, the ASA upheld the first and said that, although Iceland had amended the ad, “we were concerned about the way in which the ad described the FSAI’s tests and further tests commissioned by Iceland”.

The ASA said it understood the FSAI had carried out two sets of tests before releasing the results and although “the initial tests were not carried out using an accredited test methodology, they were conducted by an independent accredited laboratory”.  

It added: “We understood the FSAI then commissioned a second set of tests, which reconfirmed the initial test results. Those tests were carried out by another independent accredited laboratory, which did use an accredited test methodology.”

It said Iceland’s claim stating that FSAI tests were not accredited could only refer to initial tests, which were, however, backed by a second set of tests. “We noted the ad also did not make clear that the test methodology used in the initial tests was an established methodology commonly used in North America,” it said.  

Issue was also taken with Iceland’s claim that its independent tests were carried out by “two accredited independent laboratories”, of which the ASA said: “While we acknowledged that that statement was accurate, we understood that both of the FSAI’s sets of tests were also carried out at independent accredited laboratories.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman from the FSAI told MeatInfo.co.uk: “The FSAI is pleased that the ASA upheld the complaint that our test results were valid.”

MeatInfo.co.uk is waiting for comment from Iceland.