Ajinomoto Sweeteners Europe Sas v Asda Stores Ltd: QBD 15 Jul 2009

The claimant said that the defendant’s characterisation of its own products as ‘Good for You’ by reference to a description saying that it did not include the claimant’s product as a component, was a malicious falsehood. The defendant sold other products which did include Aspartame. The court was asked to determine the meanings.
Held: The court interpreted its task in a malicious falsehood case, as opposed to a claim in defamation, not to be to decide on one meaning only.
Tugendhat J said: ‘the reason for the rule in defamation is to protect freedom of expression on the one hand, and the right to reputation on the other hand, striking a balance between the two. The rule is a control mechanism.’ The Claimant could have sued in defamation, but chose to sue in malicious falsehood. Where such a choice exists, it is in the interests of legal consistency, and of freedom of expression, that the same rule of interpretation should apply to both torts. Therefore the single meaning rule applies to the malicious falsehood alleged in the present case. The court accordingly settled on the meanings of the words complained of, rejecting the alleged implied meaning of ‘That aspartame is harmful or unhealthy.’

Tugendhat J
[2009] EWHC 1717 (QB), [2009] 3 WLR 1149, [2009] FSR 29, [2010] 1 QB 204
European Convention on Human Rights 10
England and Wales
CitedVodafone Group Plc v Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd ChD 1997
The court examined the development of the law in relation to comparative advertising. Jacob J said: ‘Prior to the coming into force of the Trade Marks Act 1994 comparative advertising using a registered trade mark of a competitor was, subject to . .
CitedBonnick v Morris, The Gleaner Company Ltd and Allen PC 17-Jun-2002
(Jamaica) The appellant sought damages from the respondent journalists in defamation. They had claimed qualified privilege. The words alleged to be defamatory were ambiguous.
Held: The publishers were protected by Reynolds privilege. The court . .
CitedGrubb v Bristol United Press Ltd CA 1963
Pearce LJ discussed the importance of the use of extrinsic facts in determining meaning in defamation cases, saying: ‘any innuendo (that is, any allegation that the words were used in a defamatory sense other than their ordinary meaning) cannot rely . .
CitedJones v Skelton PC 1963
(New South Wales) Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest discussed how words subject to a claim in defamation should be read: ‘In deciding whether words are capable of conveying a defamatory meaning the court will reject those meanings which can only emerge as . .
CitedJeynes v News Magazines Ltd and Another CA 31-Jan-2008
Whether Statement defamatory at common law
The claimant appealed against a striking out of her claim for defamation on finding that the words did not have the defamatory meaning complained of, namely that she was transgendered or transsexual.
Held: The appeal failed.
Sir Anthony . .
CitedCharterhouse Clinical Research Unit Ltd v Richmond Pharmacology Ltd QBD 2003
Morland J said: ‘it is the duty of the courts to keep claims alleging trade libels within their proper bounds, particularly having regard to s.12(4) of the Human Rights Act 1998 and Article 10 of the Convention.’ . .
CitedCharleston and Another v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Another HL 31-Mar-1995
The plaintiffs were actors playing Harold and Madge Bishop in the Australian soap series ‘Neighbours’. They sued on a tabloid newspaper article which showed their faces superimposed on the near-naked bodies of models apparently engaged in sexual . .
CitedThe Capital and Counties Bank Limited v George Henty and Sons HL 1882
The defendant wrote to their customers saying ‘Henty and Sons hereby give notice that they will not receive in payment cheques drawn on any of the branches of the Capital and Counties Bank.’ The contents of the circular became known and there was a . .
CitedMacMillan Magazines Ltd v RCN Publishing 1998
Neuberger J approved the statement of Jacob J as to comparative marketing. . .
CitedSlim v Daily Telegraph Ltd CA 1968
Courts to Settle upon a single meaning if disputed
The ‘single meaning’ rule adopted in the law of defamation is in one sense highly artificial, given the range of meanings the impugned words sometimes bear. The law of defamation ‘has passed beyond redemption by the courts’. Where in a libel action . .
See AlsoAjinomoto Sweeteners Europe Sas v Asda Stores Ltd QBD 8-Apr-2009
The claimant alleged malicious falsehood against the defendant, which had advertised a campaign to remove ‘nasties’ from the food it sold, including a component, aspartame, supplied by the claimant. They pointed to its approval by many authorities, . .

Cited by:
Appeal FromAjinomoto Sweeteners Europe Sas v Asda Stores Ltd CA 2-Jun-2010
The claimant sold a sweetener ingredient. The defendant shop advertised its own health foods range with the label ‘no hidden nasties’ and in a situation which, the claimant said, suggested that its ingredient was a ‘nasty’, and it claimed under . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Defamation, Human Rights

Updated: 12 January 2022; Ref: scu.347760