NAD Refers Advertising Claims from Chicken of the Sea to Regulatory Agencies for Further Review

New York, NY – Jan. 30, 2014 – The National Advertising Division has referred to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and California regulatory agencies advertising claims made by Chicken of the Sea, Inc., for its Chicken of the Sea tuna products after the company declined to participate in proceeding before NAD.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The claims at issue were challenged by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and included:

  •  “At Chicken of the Sea, we pride ourselves on our long-standing commitment to operating a[n] . . . environmentally responsible business. We realize that our sustainability obligations don’t end when the seafood is caught, but extend all the way through the processing, packaging and delivery to consumers.”
  •  “[Chicken of the Sea’s] commitment to environmental responsibility starts at the beginning of our product life cycle when the fish is caught. We do this through our membership in the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, our partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and our fishing methods.”
  •  “All tuna purchased, processed and sold by Chicken of the Sea is dolphin-safe . . . period!”
  •  “Among the industry’s leaders in implementing programs to prevent accidental dolphin mortality.”
  •  “All suppliers of raw tuna . . . must be 100% safe.”
  •  “Chicken of the Sea policies and practices ‘ensure that its suppliers’ fishing practices protect ocean stocks for decades to come.”
  •  “[W]e believe that sharing our sustainability story – including a balanced look at our strengths and weaknesses – is a core element of our sustainability strategy. For that reason, we are committed to tracking and publicly reporting on our environmental . . . impacts in an annual sustainability report.”

It was the challenger’s position that the advertiser’s claims are mislead consumers about Chicken of the Sea’s dolphin-safe policy by going beyond bare usage of the term “dolphin-safe” authorized by the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (DPCIA) and instead employing language that leads reasonable consumers to believe that absolutely no dolphins are harmed during the production of the company’s tuna.

In response to NAD’s inquiry, the advertiser said that it respectfully declined to provide a substantive response to the challenge because in 2012 the Federal Trade Commission chose not to pursue a substantially similar petition brought by the ALDF against Chicken of the Sea, involving references to sustainability, as well as the use of the term “dolphin-safe.” Notwithstanding its decision not to participate in the proceeding, the advertiser asserted that all of the claims challenged by the ALDF are truthful and accurate.

NAD was disappointed that the advertiser declined to participate in the self-regulatory process. In light of the advertiser’s position, NAD, pursuant to Section 2.9 of the NAD/NARB Procedures, referred this matter to the FTC, the California Department of Consumer Affairs, and the California Office of the Attorney General, for review pursuant to Section 2.1 F (iii) of the NAD/CARU Procedures for further review.