New York, NY – Nov. 19, 2012 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that GreenPan Inc., the maker of non-stick cookware, modify or discontinue certain advertising claims, including claims that its products are “eco-friendly.”
The claims at issue were challenged before NAD by E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, the maker of Teflon products.
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
In this case, NAD examined both express and implied claims, including:
• “No potentially dangerous chemicals inside. It’s completely PTFE-free and contains no silicone oil.”
• “Thermolon non-stick ceramic (=mineral) coating is completely PTFE-free, contains absolutely no silicone oil and uses no PFOA during its manufacture.”
• “GreenPan products are healthy, eco-friendly and provide great performance and convenience.
• GreenPan Thermolon ceramic coated non-stick cookware is healthier, safer and better-performing than other non-stick cookware.
• GreenPan products are healthier, safer and better for the environment than all PTFE products.
• All PTFE non-stick coatings are unsafe.
• All PTFE non-stick coatings are made with PFOA and/or are unsafe compared to Thermolon coatings.
DuPont manufactures non-stick coating systems for cookware using polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Historically, DuPont said, it used perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as a processing aid during the manufacturing of coatings for its non-stick pans. However, as a participant in the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program, DuPont committed itself to eliminating PFOA from its manufacturing process by 2015 or earlier. Further, the company said, it no longer uses PFOA to manufacture non-stick coatings for cookware and consumer bakeware.
The advertiser manufactures Thermolon coated cookware, a ceramic coating based on sol-gel technology.
DuPont argued that the claims conveyed the misleading message that PTFE non-stick coatings – including non-stick coating systems manufactured without perfluorooctanoic acid PFOA – are unsafe, unhealthy and environmentally harmful. DuPont contended that GreenPan’s advertising conveyed the misleading message that all PTFE non-stick coatings are made with PFOA.
The issue before NAD was whether GreenPan’s literally truthful claims about the composition of its product – its pans do not contain the chemicals PFOA or PTFE – were presented in a context which conveyed an unsubstantiated implied better for the environment or superior safety claims.
Following its review, NAD concluded that the frequent juxtaposition of GreenPan’s PFOA-free claims with broad “eco-friendly” claims and tag lines, and the frequent juxtaposition of its PTFE-free claims with broad health and safety claims, transformed what may be compositional claims when standing alone into comparative superiority claims.
NAD recommended that GreenPan discontinue its PFOA-free claims or modify them to avoid conveying the unsupported message that all PTFE non-stick coatings are made with PFOA. NAD also recommended that GreenPan discontinue its PTFE-free claims or modify them to avoid conveying the unsupported message that its Thermolon coated products are better for the environment, healthier and safer than all PTFE-type non-stick products.
NAD noted that nothing in its decision precluded GreenPan from describing the composition of its products as “PFOA-free” or “PTFE-free” as long as it did so in a non-misleading way that does not state or suggest product superiority over all PTFE non-stick coatings.
Given the lack of supporting evidence in the record, NAD recommended that GreenPan discontinue its “eco-friendly” claims, as they appeared in the advertising at issue. However, in the absence of a demonstration of confusion regarding the designation “GreenPan,” NAD concluded that the advertiser may continue to use the product name and label GreenPan.
NAD recommended that GreenPan discontinue energy savings(as they were not consumer meaningful) and recommended that GreenPan follow Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines in developing future marketing communications concerning the recyclability of its product packaging. Further, NAD recommended the advertiser modify its “please recycle” claim, which appeared at the company’s website, to avoid conveying the unintended and inaccurate message that GreenPan cookware itself is recyclable.
NAD noted that GreenPan’s characterization of its Thermolon products as “ceramic” is an appropriate description of the non-stick cookware category into which its products fall, however, NAD recommended that GreenPan discontinue its “natural,” “mineral,” and “mineral based” claims as the product in its final form has been chemically altered.
NAD recommended that GreenPan discontinue its broad unqualified claim that Thermolon has “superior release properties,” and that GreenPan discontinue its use of the claims “The Thermolon surface provides great non-stick,” and that Thermolon is a “high quality non stick coating” as they appear in the comparative advertising at issue. NAD noted that nothing in this decision precluded the advertiser from promoting the non-stick capability of its product in a stand-alone (monadic) context.
GreenPan, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “will take the NAD’s recommendations into consideration in future advertising and will make such modifications as necessary to comply with the NAD’s decision.”