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Tricks of the trade journals.

Why do companies add fruit flavors to their cookies instead of real fruit? Why does your local restaurant smother its chicken breast with cheese? How did that sausage-in-a-pancake end up on your child's school breakfast menu?

One reason is advertising. Not the ads you and I see, but the ones that appear in the trade journals that people in the food or food service business read.

This month we take a behind-the-scenes look at those ads to see if they can help explain what gets into our food, our menus ...and, eventually, our mouths.

This is Nature?

"Today's consumer wants it all, great taste, natural ingredients, and new ideas. McCormick & Wild has the trend-setting natural flavors that capture as never before, the freshness of real fruit."

Apparently, freshness isn't just something you get in a fresh food. It's an ingredient that can be made into a liquid and added to anything.

So, apparently, is chutzpah.

The Unkindest Cut

What's typical serving of beef? A mere three ounces (cooked), according to the government, new food labels, and the Beef Industry Council.

That's if you read the industry's ads for lean, trimmed-down "skinniest six" cuts that appear in the magazines most of us see. You know, the ads that have nutrition information and surprisingly l-o-w levels of fat and calories.

So how come the beef people feature much heftier servings in ads to restaurateurs? The recipes in the Beef Industry Council's ad call for about 7-1/2 oz. of cookee prime rib or 7-1/2 to 10 oz. of cooked beef tenderloin steak.

Could it be that that's what most restaurants typically serve? Hmmm.

As for nutrition information: sorry, the ad contained none.

Cheese It!

"Your customers are eating more chicken, pasta and fish," begins this ad from the National Dairy Board. "But it isn't easy to keep the appeal of these dishes fresh and exciting." The cheesemakers' solution, of course, is to drip you-know-what over everything. Never mind that many people are eating more chicken, pasta, and fish to cut back on the artery-clogging satured fat in red meat and cheese.

Of course, when the restaurant smothers its salmon in cheese, health-conscious customers might as well be eating a steak. Especially if the side dishes are cheddar-topped salad and Zucchini-Monterey-Jack-Melt.

Sugar Tarts?

"They're made with Smucker's real fruit filling, and contain no artificial flavors or preservatives. Plus they're cholesterol free, and fortified with six vitamins and iron."

Sounds like a health food...until you see what's in Pop-Tarts, that is. That "real fruit filling" has far more sugar than real fruit. And the flavors that contain expensive fruits--like blueberry, cherry, or raspberry--have added apple and grape juice, which keeps the fruit costs to a minimum.

Then there's the sugar in the pastry and--in most flavors--the frosting. All told, sugar comprises 40 percent of each Pop-Tart's calories. White flour adds another 40 percent, with most of the rest coming from fat. Yum.

Yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture says Pop-Tarts count as the "bread or cereal" in a school breakfast.

Kids need healthy school breakfasts, USDA, not vitamin-fortified sugary dough.

Dog Bites Salad

The A+ Corn Dog is healthier than the garden salad, says State Fair Foods, because it's got less fat. So does a soft drink. But kids need to eat fresh vegetables, not just meat and fried batter.

And how did that salad get so fatty? Loading it with two ounces of cheese (18 grams of fat) plus a tablespoon of dressing (8 grams) and croutons (2 grams) didn't hurt.

The cheese is there so the salad can count as a "meat alternate" in school lunches. But schools could serve a cheese-less salad with low-cal dressing and a low-fat meat alternate like turkey.

State Fair says that its A+ dog is "lower in fat and sodium than ordinary all meat corn dogs." But, at 16 grams of fat and 900 mg of sodium, it's only 1 gram less fat and 240 mg less sodium than the company's ordinary meat dog.

You'd think State Fair might learn what "healthy" means from its parent company, Sara Lee. Or would you?

Pyramid Scheme

Nutrition Pyramids. Sound familiar?

Like our own Healthy Eating Pyramid, the USDA's Eating Right Pyramid is designed (at least we hope so) to get people to eat more grains, fruits, and vegetables and less meat and diary.

No sweat, Mr. or Ms. School Food Service Buyer. Better Baked pizzas can help you "build your school's breakfast program on a solid nutrition pyramid..."

Yet, for all that talk about nutrition, Better Baked Pizza spokesperson Tim Norman refused to give us any information about the fat, salt, or other nutrients in these slices.

So we had to estimate. Let's see.

Two slices of Better Baked's Breakfast Sausage pizza can't be too different from a third of a large Celeste Sausage Pizza, with its 29 grams of fat and 9 grams of saturated fat.

And the company's Good Gravy pizza--which is the same except for the white gravy that replaces the tomato sauce--could only be worse.

"Studies show that students who eat breakfast score higher on standardized tests," says the ad. Apparently, Better Baked wants to make sure they also score higher on their cholesterol tests.

It's Been Real

It's such a comfort to know that these instant potatoes are made with real potato. (What else could they be made with? Pillow stuffing?)

Okay, so the ad forgot to mention a few ingredients that provide the "rich flavor, texture, appearance, even the aroma, that says homemade." The artificial colors and flavors and the partially hydrogenated soybean oil, for example.

Another big difference between homemade and Idahoan's mashed potatoes is the sulfites that the company adds to keep its instant spuds from turning brown. Unfortunately, those sulfites can cause severe, life-threatening reactions in some asthmatics.

You can bet there'll be no clue on the restaurant's menu to warn them of the danger.
COPYRIGHT 1993 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 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:advertisements in trade journals for the food and food-service industries
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:Do or diet: treating disease with food.
Next Article:Losing weight, hot foods, life expectancy....

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