Westland wins Advertising Standards Authority case brought by Scotts

Scotts Miracle-Gro have lost a challenge against rivals Westland Horticulture over SafeLawn YouTube advertising safety claims.

Scotts asked the Advertising Standards Authority to investigate the ads under CAP Code on misleading advertising, substantiation and comparisons, but did not find it in breach.

A Westland YouTube ad and a website, www.gardenhealth.com, advertising SafeLawn, a natural lawn feed product, seen in April 2017, included voice-over which stated, "… the safer way to feed your lawn" and on-screen text which stated, "Safety compared to lawn weed & moss killer fertilisers that contain pesticides".

The website included text which stated, "Safe to use around children and pets", "Safe for children & pets" and "This product is safe for children and pets, however it is good practice to store out of reach in a dry, frost-free place".

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, challenged whether: the safety claims "Safe to use around children and pets", "Safe for children & pets" and "This product is safe for children and pets, however it is good practice to store out of reach in a dry, frost-free place" were misleading and could be substantiated; and the comparative claims "the safer way to feed your lawn" and "Safety compared to lawn weed & moss killer fertilisers that contain pesticides" were misleading and could be substantiated.

Westland Horticulture said they did not believe the ad was misleading. They said the raw ingredients in the product were natural and the product did not contain pesticides. They also said they had tests carried out on the product by an independent testing facility to assess the hazard for three potential exposure routes: skin irritation, eye irritation and mammalian toxicity; that testing conformed to the European Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (the CLP). They said that desktop studies such as this were standard practice in the industry. They said the testing concluded that the product posed a very low hazard for all three potential exposure routes and that was further supported when compared against other products with matching use patterns, which clearly presented significantly greater hazards under identical exposure.

SafeLawn said the comparison was made on the basis of the safety of products with reference to the raw ingredients which the products were comprised of and the application instructions. They said the ad made clear the comparison was in relation to the safety of the product compared to products which contained pesticides. They said this allowed consumers to compare their product which they said contained 100% natural ingredients and application instructions of their product with different products on the market which contained pesticides. They said while they were familiar with the plant protection registration process, and had products on the market subject to the registration requirements, as this product did not contain pesticides it was not subject to the registration process. They said, through independent testing, they were satisfied that the product worked in the way it stated it would and would not cause harm.

The Advertising Standards Authority decided the case was "not upheld" and considered that consumers would understand the claims 'Safe to use around children and pets', 'Safe for children & pets' and 'This product is safe for children and pet' to mean that using the product as directed would not cause harm to people or animals.

ASA said: "We considered that, as consumers were likely to use the product on their lawns, the advertiser needed to provide evidence that demonstrated the product would not cause physiological harm to children or animals, if children or animals came into contact with it on lawns applied with the product.

We further considered that consumers would understand the claims "the safer way to feed your lawn" and "Safety compared to lawn weed & moss killer fertilisers that contain pesticides" to mean that the product was safer to use than lawn weed & moss killer fertilisers that contained pesticides, when used as directed. We considered that consumers would understand the term safer, in this context, to mean less harmful to human health than comparable products that contained pesticides. We considered, therefore, that the evidence needed to compare the safety of the product with other comparable products that contained pesticides and demonstrate that it was safer to human health.

"We noted that testing was carried out on the three active components of SafeLawn and was compared with two common comparable household products which contained pesticides. The testing concluded that there was no evidence available that demonstrated the product caused skin irritation compared to one of the comparable products that did not carry a classification for skin irritation and another comparable product that carried a classification for skin irritation. The product did not exhibit the physical characteristics to cause eye irritation compared to the same two comparable products that did carry classifications for eye irritation, and the product was not classified for mammalian toxicity compared to the same two comparable products which carried classifications for toxicity. We considered the testing, undertaken by an independent testing facility in line with the CPL and standard toxicity testing for comparable pesticide containing products, was sufficiently robust as that reflected in the manner in which children or animals may come into contact with the product when used as directed.

"We therefore considered that SafeLawn had substantiated the claims and that the ads were not misleading."


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