The South African Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) directorate recently considered a complaint by a Kevin Harris that the claims featured in the TV advert for Simba Sunbites chips - "no added MSG; no tartrazine; no trans fat" - portray the product as healthy, which was untrue, as some of the additives in the product were not permitted, and the product was not suited for consumption by hyperactive children.
The directorate sought the opinion of the Health Department and the Consumer Goods Council, which agreed that all the additives in Sunbites were permitted.
The Health Department said the packaging claims of "no artificial colourants" were acceptable as the colourants used - iron oxide and caramel - were not regarded as artificial, and the "no tartrazine" claim was also allowed.
But then the department threw a spanner in the works by saying that while the claim "no added MSG" was technically correct, it was considered misleading, as it created the impression that no flavour enhancers were used, while in reality the chips contained the flavourants disodium guanylate and disodium inosnate.
Plus, while the packaging conveyed a message of "natural and pure", this was in "dire contrast" with the ingredients, including artificial sweeteners and tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), which is used to preserve fats, in place of the maligned trans fat.
So the department's view was that while the packaging complied with legislation, it "portrays an image that it is false and misleading to the consumer".
The ASA directorate said the health department's view was irrelevant as the complaint was about the TV advert, not the packaging.
It concluded that there was nothing to indicate that the advertised product was unsafe or that the advert was irresponsible in promoting a product that was unsafe if consumed by children, and dismissed the complaint.