NAD Recommends Housewares America Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims For Debby Meyer Greenbags; Company To Appeal

New York, NY – June 8, 2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Housewares America, Inc.,  modify or discontinue certain claims for Debby Meyer GreenBags. The company has said it will appeal certain findings of the NAD to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate body of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation.

NAD requested that Housewares America provide substantiation for superior performance claims made in television advertising and on product packaging for Debby Meyer GreenBags, following a challenge by S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., maker of Ziploc brand plastic pinch-and-seal bags. Claims at issue included:

  • GreenBags are “made with a natural mineral that absorbs and removes the harmful ethylene gas” that causes stored produce to rot. 
  • GreenBags “are made with a natural mineral ‘Oya’ that extends the life of produce by absorbing and removing the ethylene gases that cause normal deterioration”
  • “ABSORBS AND REMOVES ETHYLENE GAS ”

The challenged commercial depicts a number of comparisons between fruit and vegetables purportedly stored in the advertiser’s GreenBags and in “traditional storage.”  The advertiser’s product packaging offers similar depictions.  In each example, the fruits and vegetables purportedly stored in GreenBags appear significantly fresher than those purportedly stored in “traditional” or “regular” storage – and those purportedly stored in “traditional” or “regular” storage are depicted as rotted, moldy, and discolored.

It is undisputed that vegetables, fruits and cut flowers produce ethylene gas, which has the effect of accelerating the ripening process. The search for materials with ethylene-removal capabilities has led to increased attention on zeolites, minerals with absorption properties.

The advertiser explained that its product incorporates a proprietary form of zeolite into the packaging and that the zeolite’s absorption properties are further enhanced as a result of the advertiser’s proprietary manufacturing process. The final product is a storage bag that removes ethylene gas from the interior of the bag, slowing the ripening process and extending the freshness of stored produce.

Following its review, NAD determined that consumers could reasonably interpret the advertiser’s superior performance claims as a comparison between the advertiser’s product and all competitive storage options including the challenger’s pinch-and-seal bags and/or containers – a claim unsupported by the evidence in the record. 

NAD did find that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for the limited superiority claim against commercial polyethylene film (original store packaging) or unwrapped produce.

NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its superior product performance claims to more narrowly limit the object of comparison to original store packaging or no packaging at all. Further, NAD recommended the advertiser modify side-by-side depictions to more accurately represent the differences in produce quality documented in its testing.

In its advertiser’s statement, the company said it believes “NAD failed to consider important unrebutted evidence and arguments … which strongly supported the challenged claims,” and noted that it will appeal NAD’s decision to the NARB.