A television advert showing people drumming Heinz baked beans cans has been banned on safety grounds.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled Heinz Foods UK Ltd should no longer broadcast its can-beating commercial after three viewers complained it encouraged “unsafe practices”. A further six believed the activity would be dangerous for children to copy.

That’s right, nine complainants as against the countless millions that saw the commercial – over 1.6 million people watched it on YouTube alone!

The advert showed workers, families and festival-goers using tin cans to hammer out percussion sounds. The ASA said there was a risk people would try and copy the drumming and cut their hands or fingers on empty cans.

Can Heinz be beaten?

Heinz Foods denied their advert posed a safety risk. The company said it posted tutorials on how to safely perform the “Can Song” on social media sites such as Facebook. Videos included “idiot-proof” instructions on how to prepare cans and avoid cuts by taping up their insides!

Heinz said the advert only showed people beating “safe” surfaces i.e. the sealed top, bottom or side of cans. The company stressed the ad did not show anyone putting their hand or fingers inside empty cans.

Heinz believe the fact people have uploaded their own versions of the song on social media sites is proof copying is “not prejudicial to their Health or Safety”.

Health & Safety risk?

The ASA say the Can Song was played at such speed it was not always clear cans were being tapped on “safe” surfaces. The watchdog said consumers playing the song were also unlikely to be as skilled as the actors seen flipping and twirling cans.

It added “Given the manoeuvres required, it might still be possible that mistakes could be made with an empty can which might include a hand or fingers being inserted into an open tin with the associated risk of cuts.”

The ASA found the advert itself did not include instructions on making sure cans were safe to play. Onscreen text that referenced Facebook was also not “sufficient to alert consumers” to the dangers presented by empty cans.

The ASA said there was a “Health & Safety risk” in copying the Can Song particularly as the advert was likely to appeal to children. The regulator believed the “ad condoned and encouraged behaviour that prejudiced Health or Safety”.

No regulations

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said it will not contradict the ASA ruling despite the fact no Health & Safety legislation applies in this case!

HSE chair Martin Temple does though admit it looks “like the term Health & Safety has been used incorrectly here”. He adds “We would hope the public realise there are absolutely no regulations preventing children from playing with empty sealed tin cans. Obviously if a child is playing with a jagged edge on a tin container there is a risk of injury but we would hope parents manage that risk.”

The ASA ruling comes after Heinz ended a two month TV campaign. Heinz said “Although we acknowledge the ASA decision, the TV campaign is over and we have no plans to run it again”.

Contact the ASA to learn how to play safely with tin cans. Otherwise contact Ellis Whittam to learn how to manage real Health & Safety risks!

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