Use of solvent-extracted sunflower oil and fat-reduced cocoa powder means a product cannot be marketed as ‘100% natural’, the advertising watchdog has ruled.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint that a poster describing a Go Ahead Goodness bar as ‘Crammed With 100% Natural Ingredients’ was misleading and could not be substantiated.

United Biscuits had argued that guidance published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2008 on the use of certain marketing terms meant that, providing ingredients were not chemically altered or produced using new technologies, ingredients could be classified as ‘natural’.

The manufacturer added that Go Ahead Goodness bars were made in a traditional manner, with ingredients typical of those found in consumers’ store cupboards.

United Biscuits said, although sunflower oil and fat-reduced cocoa powder did undergo some processing, these processes were not new technologies and involved making the edible elements of the plants suitable for human consumption.

Upholding the complaint that the poster was misleading and could not be substantiated, the ASA said it had looked at the FSA’s criteria for the use of the terms ‘fresh, pure, natural etc’.

The watchdog said the refining processes to extract sunflower oil from sunflower seeds generally involved the use of solvents, and that the FSA guidance stated that “processes such as … solvent extraction … are not in line with current consumer expectations of ’natural’, and so if used then products should not be referred to as natural food or ingredients”.

It also found that the process used to create fat-reduced cocoa powder involved the addition of potassium carbonate solution (an alkaline solution), and that the FSA guidance stated that “acid or alkali treatment” was not in line with consumer expectations of ‘natural’.

“For those reasons, we considered that neither sunflower oil nor fat-reduced cocoa powder would be understood by consumers to be ‘natural’ ingredients. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading,” said the ASA.