A recent NAD decision once again illustrates how the NAD is often at the forefront of opining on many currently trending claims. The holy grail for any pasta loving carb avoider is a great tasting but healthier spaghetti. And as companies increase their whole grains and overall nutritional profile, comparative claims and challenges are sure to follow. Barilla recently challenged a claim by Ronzoni Healthy Harvest pasta that it has 100% whole grains and 56 grams per serving, compared to Barilla the leading brand of whole grain pasta, with 28 grams. Barilla’s challenge asserted that the advertisement falsely implied that Ronzoni also has twice the fiber as Barilla (when Barilla has 6 grams of fiber compared to Ronzoni’s 5 grams).
Barilla argued that it is commonly recognized that consumers confuse whole grains and fiber. Barilla asserted the confusion is compounded by Ronzoni’s website which calls out its 100% whole grains and adds “a whole grain is a grain that still has its outer covering, which is nutritionally rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. One serving of Ronzoni Healthy Harvest pasta has 20% of your daily recommended fiber intake.”
Both the advertiser and challenger pointed to FDA draft guidance on whole grain statements. NAD acknowledged that FDA recognizes that whole grain claims can give false messages as to how much nutrient content a food has, but the guidance seems to focus on foods that have small amounts of whole grains. In this case NAD noted, Ronzoni does have 100% whole grains and is also a good source of fiber with 5 grams.
NAD concluded that it would not prohibit Ronzoni’s claims absent specific evidence that consumers take away a false message that Barilla has less fiber. It did not rely on Barilla’s use of more general consumer studies showing many people believe whole grains always equal the same amount of fiber. NAD noted that Ronzoni does not make reference to fiber when it makes the whole grain comparative claim to Barilla. It also found that people eat whole grains for benefits beyond fiber so a 2x fiber claim is not a necessary implication from a 2x whole grains claim. All of which goes to show that often grappling with implied claims can be as messy as eating a plate of spaghetti.