Groups question Ben & Jerry's advertising

Copyright 1999 United Press International
December 17, 1999

Ben & Jerry's, known for its socials much as its ice cream, is the target of a complaint filed by two organizations that allege the Vermont company is misleading consumers about dioxin.

Ben & Jerry's this year began using unbleached paperboard in packaging for its pint containers, saying the move would help reduce dioxin released by paper mills as a byproduct of the bleaching process.

The groups, Citizens for the Integrity of Science and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, say the ice cream maker is being disingenuous because the ice cream itself contains dioxin. In fact, the two organizations filed a complaint Thursday with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing the company of misleading advertising.

Ben & Jerry's does not deny that its products may contain dioxin. The company says dioxin, which is fat-soluble, makes its way into the food chain and ends up in milk, fish and meats, and the ice cream-makers say they can't do much about it. They can, however, control their choice of packaging materials.

Company spokeswoman Chrystie Heimert said the controversy ''diverts attention away from the fundamental point'' about the need for reducing pollutants. Nevertheless, she added, ''We are delighted to see a dialogue about dioxin.''

Despite the dioxin claim, the two organizations say that from a health standpoint, Ben & Jerry's ice cream is perfectly safe. At their news conference, the groups even gave out samples.

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