The fast food restaurant chain KFC has promised not to make unsupported health claims as part of a settlement with US regulators over adverts suggesting that fried chicken can be a healthy choice for dieters.
In October 2003 KFC, under the tagline "You've Gotta KFC What's Cookin" , had launched two commercials, which aimed to communicate fresh ideas to eating better. The adverts compared KFC chicken breasts to a Burger King whopper and featured a woman setting a bucket of fried chicken in front of her husband as they affirmed their dedication to eating better.
Another portrayed fried chicken as a low-carbohydrate, high-protein food that was fit for people trying to cut down on carbs.
"We want to set the record straight," Scott Bergren, KFC's executive vice president of marketing and food innovation, had said at the time. "Consumers will be surprised to learn they can enjoy fried chicken as part of a healthy, balanced diet."
Under the settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission, the company cannot make any similar claims unless it can substantiate them with scientific evidence.
Penalties of $11,000 per violation would apply to any future unsupported claims, the FTC said.
KFC said in a statement it believed the adverts were "truthful and factually accurate" and was "sorry if anyone may have misinterpreted" them.
"In order to put this matter behind us, we've entered into an agreement with the FTC without admitting any wrongdoing, and we won't be running these two ads again," the statement said.
The FTC started investigating after receiving a complaint from the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). "While I'm glad the FTC took action, the remedy is a day late and a dollar short," said the group's executive director Michael Jacobson.
"The FTC should have taken this opportunity to send a strong signal to food manufacturers that deceptive advertising about nutrition would not be tolerated."
The FTC claims to look at each case on its own merits and hopes this case will send a clear message to advertisers that they need to take care when making health claims.
While it is true that two KFC 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, the FTC said. They added that the suggestion that fried chicken could be part of a low-carb diet was false because such programmes like the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet advise against eating breaded, fried foods.