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A poster ad for healthy snack brand Go Ahead has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after the watchdog disputed the brand’s claim that their Goodness Bars contained only natural ingredients.

The posters claimed that the Go Ahead Goodness Bars are ‘Crammed with 100% natural ingredients’, a statement disputed by the ASA, which pointed out that ingredients such as refined sunflower oil and reduced fat cocoa powder could not be considered ‘natural’.

The posters must not appear again in their current form, and the ASA has told United Biscuits – the firm that owns the Go Ahead brand, alongside brands such as McVitie’s, Jacob’s and Carr’s – not to use the term ‘natural’ in its marketing, unless it is referring to non-manmade products. According to the firm, one in five British households buy Go Ahead products.

The ASA investigated the poster campaign after receiving a complaint that United Biscuit’s ‘100% natural ingredients’ claim was misleading. The watchdog referred to longstanding guidance from the Food Standards Agency, which advises that an ingredient should only be classed as ‘natural’ if it has not been chemically altered or produced using new technologies.

Although United Biscuits claimed that all the ingredients found in a Go Ahead bar could be found among consumers’ own kitchen cupboards, its recipe included reduced fat cocoa powder and sunflower oil. The ASA argued that the process for creating cocoa powder, which involves washing cocoa beans in an alkali solution to reduce bitterness, meant it could not be called natural. The watchdog stated that: “Products described as natural should be made using ingredients produced by nature and not the work of man or interfered with by man,” and that “neither sunflower oil nor fat reduced cocoa powder would be understood by consumers to be ‘natural’ ingredients.”

Although United Biscuits admitted that its ingredients “did undergo a degree of processing,” it suggested that the recipe would still be considered natural by consumers because, “the processes had existed for many years and were therefore not new technologies.” The snack conglomerate noted that many of their competitors made similar claims and used similar products.

The ASA has form for policing food brands’ claims of natural or organic qualities for their ingredients. Last June, the watchdog banned a press ad for Arla organic farm milk, after the dairy brand claimed their products were ‘good for the land’.