Ben & Jerry’s slammed by consumer group over “deceptive” dairy advertising

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12 Jul 2018 --- US iconic ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s has come under attack from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) which has filed suit against the Unilever-owned company over deceptive marketing allegations. The OCA is suing Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc., for what it calls the "deceptive labeling, marketing and sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products." The suit was filed in D.C. Superior Court under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

The allegations relate to what the OCA – a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization representing a network of more than one million consumers – described as the “false perception” Ben & Jerry’s creates, claiming to be committed to high animal welfare standards. 

However, according to the OCA, Ben & Jerry sources dairy ingredients from conventional dairy operations and “factory-style farming practices” for cheap milk.

This is in contrast to Ben & Jerry’s marketing which uses the term “Caring Dairy,” says the OCA. Click to Enlarge

“Unilever reportedly spent more than US$9 billion on advertising in 2017 alone,” says OCA International Director, Ronnie Cummins. “A significant portion of that was spent to create the false perception that Ben & Jerry’s is committed to a clean environment and high animal welfare standards. Unilever knows those values foster brand loyalty and also allow the company to charge a premium.”

“Ben & Jerry’s decades-old practice of sourcing dairy ingredients from conventional dairy operations has led to a water pollution crisis in Vermont. There is nothing socially or environmentally responsible about that.”

Last year, OCA testing revealed traces of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, in Ben & Jerry’s products purchased in the US and the EU.

At the time, Ben & Jerry’s said that although it was concerned to learn that testing revealed trace levels of the herbicide glyphosate in several of its flavors, it was not totally surprised. 

“It’s everywhere – from mainstream food to natural and organic food, to rainwater – and that’s the issue,” said a statement from the Unilever company. 

“The bottom line is that our products are safe to eat and the trace levels of glyphosate detected were significantly below all allowable US and European standards.”

“While we’re the company that claims 'If it’s not fun, why do it?' we do take issues of food safety and quality very seriously. Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in agriculture and is one of the most pervasive chemicals in our food system. We understand and share our fans’ desire to limit the amount of chemicals in that food system.”

Michael Colby, president of Regeneration Vermont, said: “For decades, Ben & Jerry’s has been doing bad and feeling good about it. While they market it as ‘Caring Dairy,’ the cheap milk produced for Ben & Jerry’s relies upon factory-style farming practices, such as antibiotics use and animal confinement, that contaminate the state’s waterways.”

A spokesperson for Ben & Jerry’s told FoodIngredientsFirst the company does not comment on pending lawsuits.

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