June 3, 2004
Fried chicken a low-fat food? The Federal Trade Commission thinks not. It charged KFC Corporation, owner of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain, with making false claims about the nutritional value and healthiness of its chicken in a national television ad campaign.
The Commission also charged the company with making false claims that its fried chicken is compatible with certain popular weight-loss programs.
In a proposed settlement, which does not include a fine, the company will stop making these or similar claims about the nutritional value, weight-loss benefits, or other health benefits of its chicken products and meals unless it substantiate the claims.
Todays action signals food advertisers that the FTC will not tolerate misleading advertisements to consumers who are trying to eat healthier and watch their weight, warned FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris. More than ever before, todays consumers need truthful information about diet and health in food marketing. Consumers want healthier menu options, and many of the national fast food chains are responding. For consumers to obtain healthier choices, we must make sure that companies promote their products honestly, added Chairman Muris.
The FTCs complaint charged KFC with making false claims that eating KFC fried chicken, specifically two Original Recipe fried chicken breasts, is better for a consumers health than eating a Burger King Whopper.
One ad featured a woman putting a bucket of KFC fried chicken down in front of her husband and announcing, Remember how we talked about eating better? Well, it starts today! The ad then states that Two KFC breasts have less fat than a BK Whopper.
Although it is true that the two fried chicken breasts have slightly less total fat and saturated fat than a Whopper, they have more than three times the trans fat and cholesterol, more than twice the sodium, and more calories.
A second ad, the complaint charges, falsely claims that eating KFC fried chicken is compatible with low carbohydrate weight-loss programs. The ad depicts a man surprised when he recognizes a friend who is sitting on the tailgate of a truck eating KFC fried chicken.
Jack? the first asks, Is that you? Man, you look fantastic! What the heck you been doing!? Eatin chicken, Jack replies.
The announcer states, One Original Recipe chicken breast has just 11 grams of carbohydrates and packs 40 grams of protein. So if youre watching carbs and going high-protein, go KFC. The claim is false, the FTC says, because low carbohydrate weight-loss programs such as the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet specifically advise against eating breaded, fried foods.
The FTC is not endorsing any particular diet program. Consumers should choose an approach to managing their weight that works for them. But they cannot succeed if they make choices based on bad information, said Muris.
The settlement prohibits KFC from claiming that eating its fried chicken is better for a consumers health than eating a Burger King Whopper, or that its fried chicken is compatible with low-carbohydrate weight-loss programs, unless it substantiates the claim with competent and reliable evidence, including scientific evidence when appropriate.
The settlement also prohibits KFC from making any other claim about the amount of fat or other nutrients in its chicken products; the compatibility of its chicken products with any weight-loss program; or any other health benefit, unless the company substantiates the claim with competent and reliable evidence, including scientific evidence when appropriate.
The FTC has been engaged on several fronts to improve access to information about the calorie content and other health consequences of the foods consumers eat. For example, the FTC has provided its support to FDAs food labeling initiative on qualified health claims, which affords food companies more flexibility to discuss emerging areas of nutrition research.
And, as part of a government-wide effort to combat the nations rising obesity rates, the FTC also has joined forces with the Food and Drug Administration to create regulatory policies that will ensure that food labels offer accurate and more complete information about the calorie content of foods.
As food companies create lower-calorie, healthier options for consumers, they should be able to communicate these improvements to the consumer. At the same time, we will police the marketplace to ensure the information is truthful, accurate, and not misleading, Muris said.