New York, NY – Dec. 19, 2013 – The National Advertising Division has determined that TruRx, LLC, the maker of Minties Dental Treats for dogs, can support certain efficacy claims for the company’s Minties dental dog treats, but recommended TruRx limit advertising claims for the products to the size of dental treat tested by the company. Further, TruRx has agreed to discontinue claims that its products are “vet grade” or “vet recommended.”
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Claims made by TruRx on its website, on television, in point-of-sale print advertising and on its product packaging, were challenged by the Nutro Company, the maker of Greenies, a competing dental treat for dogs.
Key to this case was whether TruRx provided adequate support for its unqualified claim that Minties performs at parity with Greenies. As a general rule, NAD noted in its decision, health-related claims should be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence, with the gold standard being testing on the product itself.
As support for its parity claims, the advertiser relied on a study of the comparative effectiveness of Greenies and Minties dental treats that measured the reduction of dental plaque, calculus, gingivitis, and halitosis in adult beagle dogs. Minties’ test protocol called for 30 beagles, separated into two groups, with a crossover design, to be given either a medium size Minties or Greenies chew once per day for 28 days, when the groups were switched to the other product for an additional 28 days.
The dogs’ teeth were cleaned and measured for halitosis, gingivitis, calculus and plaque before and after each 28 day period. NAD noted that the well-controlled, comparative study showed that dogs given Minties dental treats experienced a reduction in all of the test protocol’s oral health measures at parity with Greenies.
The advertiser argued that testing a single size was insufficient support for Minties to make a parity claim as to all sizes of its dental treats. As support for its position, Greenies directed NAD’s attention to the standards set forth by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, that requires products be tested for efficacy in at least two sizes, one for small dogs (beagles are acceptable) and one for larger dogs, when the products are available in multiple sizes.
Although NAD is not bound by the VOHC seal of approval standards as the “industry standard,” the reasoning for the VOHC protocol identifies a material flaw in the submitted testing comparing Minties’ to Greenies: Minties’ testing was performed only on its medium size dental treat and those results cannot be assumed to have the same effect in different size dogs using a different size product. As a result NAD determined that Minties’ claims were supported as to the size of the product tested, but recommended that Minties limit its parity claims to the size of the product that was tested.
NAD further recommended that the advertiser’s stand-alone efficacy claims – “helps clean teeth, freshen breath and reduce plaque and tartar” – be modified to disclose that its claims are based upon testing on the medium size Minties only.
NAD determined that the advertiser substantiated its stand-alone digestibility claim.
Finally, NAD noted that, in the context in which it appeared, the advertiser’s claim, “that your dog will love” was puffery and did not require substantiation.
TruRx, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “disagrees that additional testing on other dental treat sizes is required or that any size limitations are necessary for its claims, but will take the NAD’s recommendation into account for future testing and advertising. Regarding the remaining claims, TruRx has agreed to remove the phrase ‘there’s nothing like’ from the challenged advertising. TruRx further notes that it has agreed to remove the ‘Vet Grade’ and ‘Vet Recommended’ claims from the challenged advertising.