Unilever "awarded" for misleading advertising

RNW archive

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Food manufacturer Unilever has won an award for misleading claims in advertising. The Gouden Windei (Golden Wind Egg) has been awarded to Becel Pro-activ margarine by Foodwatch.

A wind egg is a defective egg, often with a soft shell or little or no shell.

The consumer organisation says the Becel Pro-activ does lower cholesterol. However, Foodwatch told Dutch public Radio 1 that if the margarine actually prevents heart and coronary disease, as suggested both on the packaging and in television commercials, it should only be available on a doctor’s prescription. The organisation says there is no evidence that it prevents these illnesses and if it were on prescription it would, like other medicines, be subject to more stringent controls. Foodwatch even accuses the company of using its customers as guinea pigs. The product is recommended by the Heart Foundation.

In addition, Foodwatch says the margarine contains phytosterol, which does lower cholesterol in the blood, but there are also studies that show a possible increased risk of cardiovascular disease. People who regularly eat Becel Pro-Active may even ingest an overdose of phytosterol.

“Becel Pro-activ is actually a medicine which should carry information on side effects and only be available by doctor’s prescription,” says Foodwatch.

It is the second time that Unilever has received a Golden Wind Egg; last year the prize went to Blue Band Goede Start! White Bread. On both occasions, the company declined to accept the award.

In response, Unilever says the margarine is safe and its cholesterol-lowering properties are undisputed.

“This has been proved in more than 45 studies and is backed by the independent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). When Becel Pro-activ came onto the market more than 10 years ago, Unilever started researching the product immediately. The results of this research and an evaluation of various studies by the EFSA, have not given rise to any of the concerns referred to by Foodwatch.”

The Heart Foundation says there is good reason to add its logo to the product.

“It has been scientifically proved that Becel pro-activ has cholesterol-lowering properties. More than 45 different studies show that cholesterol in the blood is reduced by 10 percent within 2 to 3 weeks, when a daily portion of 2.5 grams of phytosterols are eaten every day. There have been no long-term studies into the effect on cardiovascular disease, but such reductions in LDL-cholesterol is expected to reduce cardiovascular disease by 20 to 25 percent.''

Becel is known by the name Flora in some countries.

(nc/imm)

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