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Food ads: now made with real truth.

Don't panic, Madison Avenue.

Now that the Food and Drug Administration is starting to clean up food labels, we know you're worried. Mat on earth will you say about fatty, sugary, or salty processed foods, especially junky kids' foods that companies are trying to sell to well-meaning parents?

Relax. Until Congress passes a bill introduced by Massachusetts Democrat Joseph Moakley (see p. 3, FTC k and Weep'), you can still make misleading claims not allowed on labels.

So what if the food has only a smidgen of fruit? Just say made with real fruit. " No one will wonder how much. The same goes for whole grain.

And don't forget to tell consumers how many vitamins and minerals the product contains, even if it's only a trace of each. Just count em up and trumpet the total. They'll never notice.

'Light, " 95-percent fat-free, " natural, " "fresh" -take your pick. As long as Congress and the Federal Trade Commission look the other way, you can wrap those unsuspecting consumers around your favorite food claims


"There are twenty-five vitamins and minerals in just one large egg....Is it any wonder that eggs really help push [your kids] along?"

Sounds like eggs are little vitamin-and-mineral pills. And if you're not familiar with the American Egg Board's history of misleading advertising, you might actually believe it.

One large egg does contain 25 vitamins and minerals, but only small amounts of each. How small?

The FDA requires any food claiming to be a "source" of a vitamin or mineral to contain at least 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for that nutrient.

That makes one egg a source of ... of ... well how about two eggs?

THE WHOLE TRUTH We want people to eat whole grains, but not if we have to fib to convince them to do it. General Mills apparently thinks differently.

The sleeping student isn't "alert and responsive in class," says the General Mills' ad, because that "takes energy. The kind of energy a complete breakfast including Cheerios can deliver. Cheerio is whole grain oats-packed with the complex carbohydrates to get him through his morning."

Complex carbohydrates are good, but they don't deliver any more energy than any other carbohydrates-or any other food, for that matter. "Energy" means calories," not alertness, get-up-and-go, straight As, or a scholarship to Harvard.


Frank Perdue is so proud of himself. The giant East Coast chicken producer is running radio, IV, and newspaper ads smugly announcing that his chickens will now carry nutrition labels to tell consumers "things like how low in saturated fat a Perdue chicken is."

Make that how low Frank wants you to think it is. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a typical serving of chicken is about five ounces.

But Perdue lists the fat, protein, calories, and other nutrients in only one ounce of roasted chicken. That's about five bites.

Worse yet, the USDA is now considering a proposal to require all meat and poultry products to follow Perdue's example.

Good old USDA. Always looking out for consumers... consumers like Frank Perdue, Oscar Mayer, Louis Rich...




Okay, so there's no cholesterol in Dunkin' Donuts products. Even though the egg yolks Dunkin' used to add only contributed a few milligrams, the company Worked in our test kitchens for months" before it finally switched to egg whites.

But Dunkin's claims are sure to hoodwink millions into believing that "no cholesterol" means "no fat" or, worse yet, "healthy." On the contrary, the average Dunkin' Donut gets more than half of its calories from fat.

With it come an average of three grams of saturated fat. That's nothing to sneeze at: Most people should have no more than 22 grams-and ideally no more than 15 grams-in a whole day.

So the next time you think about sinking your teeth into a soft, sweet donut, just imagine swallowing three teaspoons of oil with your coffee.

Bottoms up.


"Never more than a gram of sodium*," gloats the ad for Stouffer's Lean Cuisine frozen entrees. *All Lean Cuisine entrees have been reformulated to contain less than I gram (1000 mg) of sodium," explains the tiny print at the bottom of the ad.

What a relief!. It must have been tough to cut the sodium in a 300-calorie entree wa-a-ay down to 1,000 mg. The problem is, most people won't even notice the 1,000 mg (about half of what an adult should eat in an entire day) in the tiny print. They'll just think that less than a gram of sodium means low-sodium.

Guess that's what Stouffer's wanted.

Lots of kids: cereals

promise nutrition Only Alpha-Bits: puts it

in writing,


ALPHA-BITS cereal is low in fat, free of tropical oils, and made with nutritious whole grain oats."

What Post discreetly omits from its ads is that regular ALPHA-BITS are 40 percent sugar, and that Marshmallow ALPHA-BITS are half sugar. If it could get away with it, the subsidiary of Kraft General Foods would probably leave out the oats entirely.

But then, what would the ad say?


"It's made with a 91% fat-free beef patty," says the television commercial.

Burgers contribute more fat and saturated fat to the average American's diet than any other single food. So McDonald's new McLean Deluxe is a welcome breakthrough.

It has half the fat of a Quarter Pounder, thanks to added water and carrageenan (a safe carbohydrate made from seaweed). And its patty is lower in fat than any ground beef you can buy in the supermarket, including so-called "lean" and "extra lean."

But "91% fat-free"? That makes it sound low-fat. in fact, the McLean Deluxe has 10 grams of fat.

The McLean patty has even more water than a regular burger (which is half water). All that water weighs so much that it makes the weight of the fat seem low by comparison (see pp. 3 and 13).

Not that McDonald's claim is any more deceptive than percent-fat-free claims on other foods. Stouffer's Lean Cuisine, Oriah's Lean Cuts, Country Pride's chicken, and Swift Premium brown 'n serve sausages are just a few of the products that take advantage of this trick.

The truth is that manufacturers tend to make "percent-fat-free" claims when their products are too fatty to be called "low-fat." So the next time you see "percent-fatfree," remember that it probably means "not-low-fat."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:examples of misleading advertisements
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Previous Article:Name your (food) poison.
Next Article:A Chicken Little in our future?

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