UK watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that a statement by the crisp company saying salt levels had been cut was misleading as the consumer was likely to infer from it that salt was reduced throughout all brands rather than the limited number the claim applied to.
The ruling will serve as a warning to similar snack manufacturers as they attempt to appease a health-conscious market through advertising based on beneficial nutritional claims.
Leaflets distributed by Walkers to homes in the UK showed a packet of crisps beside a loaf of bread and carried the words: "There's now as little salt in here….as there is in here."
It continued with the statement: "We have reduced the salt in our crisps, so that a 25g bag (found in a multipack) now contains 0.4g of salt, that's 7% of your guideline daily amount. If you buy a bag from a newsagents it would be 0.5g per bag, that's 8% of your GDA"
Following the leaflet's widespread distribution, the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) campaign group complained to the ASA that it was misleading on a number of counts, the foremost being that it indicated all crisps produced by Walkers had seen similar salt reductions whereas this was the case for less than a quarter.
Professor Graham McGregor, Chairman of CASH, said: "Walkers has made some small reductions in the amount of salt in some of its products, but it is clearly implying in this door-drop leaflet that 'every crisp' is 'better for you'."
This complaint was upheld by the authority who said Walkers had breached a code of 'truthfulness'
In addition, the ASA found Walkers to be in breach of their advertising code in respect of comments made concerning the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) for children.
Although aimed at adults, the authority concluded that most of these were parents who would benefit from seeing nutritional information on the GDA for children under 11 which Walkers did not include in the leaflet.
The crisp company, who are owned by international manufacturer Pepsico, said the complaints were 'minor' and stressed they had reduced the saturated fat and salt content of Walkers crisps by 70 per cent and 25 per cent respectively and were conveying the change to consumers.