That ASA ruling in full...

The embargo on the ASA ruling on the much complained about Morrisons Christmas pudding advert is now lifted. At first we thought it was a disappointing result, and that it's all taken so long that it's so late it would have been pointless anyway.

But that's not the worst of it... today the Grocer have reported as fact the unfounded and dangerous allegation (apparently made by an un-named ex President of the RCVS) that a dog would have to eat a very large quantity of grapes for it to be harmful!


here's the offending passage from today's the Grocer.

 I quote from the email from the Veterinary Poisons Unit at Guy's Hospital the authority on this subject....

"The fatal dose of raisins / grapes has not been established and there does not appear to be a dose-response relationship. Therefore, potentially any dose is a problem. Numerous fatal canine cases have been reported in the literature .

"We were advised that the condition has only been confirmed in respect to raw fruits and that the dog in question would need to have eaten 1 – 2.5 lbs of raw raisins/grapes for risk of toxicity to be a concern".

The above sentence is very interesting - it implies that the actual dog in the advert could tolerate 1 - 2.5 lbs of raisins !
2.5 lbs is equivalent to approximately 1133 grams - please note the following cases reported in the literature:

· Raisin/sultanas: In a review of 24 cases of renal failure in dogs after ingestion raisins or sultanas where the dose could be estimated it varied from 2.8 to 36.4 g/kg. All these animals had renal failure and there was no significant difference in dose ingested between dogs that died and those that survived (Eubig et al., 2005). A Norwegian Elkhound was euthanased after ingestion of 4.7 g of raisins/kg Mazzaferro et al., 2004).
· Grapes: A 8.2 kg dachshund developed renal failure after only 4-5 grapes; he survived with supportive care and hospitalisation for 12 days (Mazzaferro et al., 2004). Renal failure developed in another dogs after 10 to 12 grapes. In a review of 4 dogs, the quantity of grapes ingested varied from 448 to 1,344 g, which is equivalent to 19.6, 30.8, 50.4 and 148.4 g/kg (Eubig et al., 2005)."

The 2,000 people who joined the facebook campaign to warn people about vine fruit toxicity, the hundreds who complained to the ASA - the vets and vet nurses, the owners of dogs who had died who bravely told their stories all did it to spread the word and save lives. The Advertising Standards Agency is meant to protect the public from irresponsible advertising - but even though they received so many complaints from eminent vets giving clear scientific back up for their factual information the ASA has published incorrect information which is now being reproduced as authoritative facts that could kill many more dogs than the original advert!
The article in today's Grocer states as 'fact' that dogs would need to eat between 500g and 1kg of grapes for it to be harmful to them. When it is clearly documented in scientific literature that as few as 4-5 grapes killed a Dachshund after 10 days of distressing renal failure. And there are many more published cases of vine fruit toxicity.
Who disciplines the ASA when they behave irresponsibly?


The ASA has decided not to uphold complaints against the Morrisons Christmas TV advertisement.

In December the BVA issued a statement and also wrote to Morrisons asking them to withdraw the commercial which showed a child feeding Christmas pudding to a dog.

Commenting on the ASA’s decision, Peter Jones, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“This ruling is disappointing but the ASA has set out its reasons for the decision and we accept those reasons. Thankfully, the advert only had a short shelf life and we hope that Morrisons is now very unlikely to make the same mistakes again. Overall, we hope the whole incident has served to educate Morrisons and the general public about the dangers of grapes and raisins to dogs.”


The ASA ruling in full...

A TV ad, for Wm Morrison Supermarkets, featured a family at a festively decorated dining table. A young boy was given a plate of Christmas pudding, looked at it disdainfully, and passed it down the table to a younger boy. The boy gave the pudding to a dog that was sat beside him. The dog took the pudding, whimpered, and dropped the pudding in a plant pot. The plant sighed and wilted. A voice-over stated, "Not everyone loves traditional Christmas pud. So Morrisons have a cherry chocolate gateau, an exclusive white Christmas pudding and a sparkly snow-capped baked Alaska."


The ASA received 234 complaints, including a number from vets, veterinary nurses and others who worked with dogs.
The complainants challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and harmful, because it implied it was acceptable to feed Christmas pudding to dogs, and some complainants also were concerned the ad could encourage children to feed Christmas pudding to dogs. The complainants understood that Christmas pudding contained ingredients which were potentially lethal to dogs.



Wm Morrison Supermarkets (Morrisons) said the ad was intended to light-heartedly reflect the fact that not everyone liked Christmas pudding. The dog was shown clearly rejecting the pudding and disposing of it in a plant pot in a dismissive manner. They felt the ad conveyed the message that dogs did not like Christmas pudding and would not wish to eat that type of food. They said they would never condone or encourage anyone to feed Christmas pudding (or any other non-standard canine diet food) to dogs.
Morrisons acknowledged that advice from the Veterinary Poisons Information Centre suggested that "a handful" of grapes, raisins or sultanas could cause some dogs to suffer kidney failure. However, they had received written advice from a vet, who was a former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, that there would be minimal, if any, risk to a dog of serious toxic reaction if it were fed a small amount of Christmas pudding in relation to its bodyweight on a one-off basis. They provided a copy of that advice.
The vet, who was also present during filming of the ad, advised that cases of toxicity apparently caused by ingestion of raisins or grapes had been reported in the past 10 to 15 years, but that the condition did not affect all dogs, was not conclusively related to the ingestion of grapes or raisins, had not been reproduced experimentally, and the toxic mechanism was not fully understood. Reported cases did not reference cooked fruit and the implication was therefore that cases had only arisen in respect of raw fruit. It was likely that where toxicity had arisen it was because dogs had accidentally gained access to large quantities of raw fruit.
The vet advised that the dog in the ad would have to eat 1 to 2.5 lb (c. 0.5 to 1kg) of raw raisins or grapes for the risk of toxicity to be a concern. Morrisons calculated that, even in a worse-case scenario, the dog in the ad would have to have consumed more than one of their largest Christmas puddings with the highest concentration of fruit in order for toxicity to be a risk.
Clearcast said that when animals were used in ads they requested an assurance from a qualified person to attest to the well-being of the animals on set; in this instance they requested an assurance that it was safe for the dog to be offered Christmas pudding, carry it to the plant and deposit it there. They also highlighted the written advice given by the veterinary surgeon.
Clearcast said the dog's rejection of the pudding showed the circumstance of a dog being fed Christmas pudding in an unfavourable light; that was reinforced by the voice-over stating, "Not everyone loves traditional Christmas pud". They considered the message of the ad was that dogs did not like Christmas pudding, and for that matter nor did plants. The ad did not condone feeding Christmas pudding to dogs and did not present it as a reward or treat for the dog. They had approved the ad because of the expert opinion of a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the lack of conclusive evidence available for cooked fruit in relation to toxicity to dogs, the rejection of the pudding by the dog, and the uniqueness of the festive situation depicted in the ad.


Not upheld
The ASA agreed that the ad depicted the circumstance of a dog being fed Christmas pudding in an unfavourable light: the boy passed the pudding to the dog in a surreptitious manner, and the dog then did not eat the slice of Christmas pudding. The voice-over also emphasised that "Not everyone loves traditional Christmas pud". We considered it was clear that, in feeding the dog, the boy was doing something he was not supposed to, and it was also clear that the dog had rejected the pudding. We considered it unlikely that viewers, including children, would interpret it to mean that dogs liked Christmas pudding or that it was appropriate to feed Christmas pudding to dogs. Furthermore, we understood that, because the ad was for foods which were high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS foods), it had been given an 'ex-kids' restriction, which meant that it would not be broadcast in or around children's programmes, and therefore the number of children who saw the ad would have been limited.
Whilst we noted the complainants' concerns that dog owners might not be aware of the possible toxicity of grapes and raisins (and other foods) to dogs, we considered that dog owners would be aware that they should not feed their dogs foods which did not form part of a standard canine diet, and that it was the responsibility of parents to educate their children that they should not feed unsuitable food to dogs.
We concluded the ad was not irresponsible and did not condone or encourage viewers to feed Christmas pudding to dogs.
We investigated under BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Responsible advertising) and 4.4 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.


No further action necessary.


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