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THE ADVERTISING OF SOME MEAT PRODUCTS ASSIGNED TO THE CHILDREN PRODUCT GROUP RECOGNISED MISLEADING, THE MANUFACTUIRNG COMPANIES – WARNED

12 11 2009

The Competition Council passed the Resolution concerning the compliance of the advertising of some meat products indicating their categorisation of the children product group with the requirements of the Law on Advertising.

The Competition Council resolved to recognise as misleading the advertising statements published in respect of the following products:

Products by UAB Biovela:  boiled sausages “Simo pieniškos dešrelės“ and “Smalsučių dešrelės“, boiled sausage “Eurikutės dešra“, boiled sausages “Eurikutės pieniškos dešrelės“ which were labelled with the statement ”Suitable for children above 3 years of age“; and the boiled sausages “Vaikams Lietuviškas standartas“ and “Vaikams“, boiled sausage “Vaikams Lietuviškas standartas“ and the boiled sausage “Vaikams“ which in their labels (packaging) used the statement “For children“ as well as „Suitable for children over three years of age“;

A product of UAB Daivida – boiled sausages “For children” – the note “For children” used in the labels;

A product of ŽŪB Delikatesas – boiled sausages “For children” – the note “For children” used in the labels;

A product of UAB Klaipėdos mėsinė – the boiled liver pate “Klaipėdos smalyžių paštetas” that in its labels (packaging) used the statement “Produced specially for children”;

Products of AB Krekenavos agrofirma boiled sausage “Vaikams”, boiled liver pate “Vaikiškas” – that used in the labels (packaging) the statement “For children” and, accordingly “Vaikiškas” labelled with the statement “Suitable for children above three years of age”.

A product of UAB Kužių agroįmonė – boiled sausages “For children” – the note “For children” used in the labels (packaging);

Products of UAB Utenos mėsa – sterilized liver pate “Kumpio kremas vaikams“, sterilized pate “Vaikams“- the note used in the labels (packaging) „For children“ and „Suitable for children over three years of age“;

A product of UAB Vigesta – boiled sausages ”Linksmučių pabiručių" – the note used in the labels (packaging) "Recommended for children above three years of age".

Warnings as administrative sanction for the use of the misleading advertising statements were issued to UAB Biovela, ŽŪB Delikatesas, AB Krekenavos agrofirma, UAB Utenos mėsa and UAB Vigesta. The companies were also obligated to cease the use of misleading claims, i.e., terminate the use of the advertising statements that have been recognised to constitute misleading advertising, where such actions were still continued.  Having considered the statutory provision that a sanction may be imposed upon an economic entity not later than within one year from the last day of the proliferation of misleading advertising (statutory limitation), some companies concerned, namely UAB Daivida, UAB Klaipėdos mėsinė and UAB Kužių agroįmonė were exempted from the sanction provided for in the Law on Advertising.

The Competition Council also noted that part of the companies concerned in the period of the investigation terminated the production of the meat products designated as meant for children, or decided to modify the composition and marking of the products in the way ensuring that consumers are not mislead.

The conduct of the investigation included the assessment of the actions by other companies, such as AB Kaišiadorių paukštynas, R. Markvėnas personal company, UAB Samsonas, AB Tauragės Maistas and AB Vilniaus paukštynas, however, in the absence of an infringement of Article 5 of the Law on Advertising committed by the companies the proceedings in respect of the companies were terminated.

According to the sanctioning practice established by the Competition Council for the infringement of Article 5 of the Law on Advertising, having regard to the number of the products meant for children, the volumes of the output of each individual company and the production period, a number of companies concerned, UAB Biovela, ŽŪB Delikatesas, AB Krekenavos agrofirma, UAB Utenos mėsa and UAB Vigesta had to be subjected to a fine. However, when imposing the administrative sanction the Competition Council was following the principles of objectivity, proportionality and justice, and noted that neither Lithuanian national, nor the European Union legal acts govern any criteria for marking of products meant for children over three years of age.

Having assessed the circumstances established in the course of the investigation the Competition Council recommended the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania and the State Food and Veterinary Service to draft relevant legal acts establishing the requirements for marking of food products for children over three years of age.

The investigation concerning an allegedly misleading advertising was initiated in response to the information submitted by the State Food and Veterinary Service.  The investigation concerned the actions of a number of Lithuanian meat processing companies offering to the market a range of products that according to their references, such as the references “For children”, or “Suitable for children over three years of age” in terms of their compliance with the requirements of the Law on Advertising.  The investigation led to the conclusion that the meat products with the indication in their labels (packaging) that the products are meant for children could presuppose the opinion of the consumers that such products at least by their composition are not identical to regular meat products meant for ordinary consumers.  However, as was noted by the State Food and Veterinary Service some of the products by their composition actually were not different from any other meat products of the same group.  Such meat products differed only by their name ("for children"), and/or some pictures on the labels, and/or the casing, and the raw materials used for the production of these sausages were the same as for regular sausages (not infrequently, even at the same rate as for other meat products of an identical group of meat products).  It should be also noted that the meat products meant for children are often sold at higher price that any regular meat products, which could add to the impression of the consumers that such products are not identical to other regular meat products.

In the case concerned the information provided in the label (packaging) of the meat product (notes: “for children”, "specially for children”, and/or the statements: “suitable for children over three years of age”, “recommended for children over three years of age”, “produced specially for children”, and the relevant child-appealing pictures obviously facilitated the opinion of consumers that the product was meant specifically for children, and their natural belief that the products at least by their composition is different from regular meat products meant for all consumers.  Should consumers be aware that the meat products perceived by virtue of advertising statements that were recognised misleading as products specifically meant for children are in fact no different from other meat products of the same group, they could have possibly opted for different meat products.

Competition Council Spokesperson