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Tricks of the trade.

Tricks OF THE Trade

Is the food supply getting better, or are advertisers getting trickier? Judging by how easy it was to find a half-dozen blatantly misleading ads and labels, something's up (and it isn't honesty).

The FDA has promised to clean up the labels it regulates. But that's only half the battle. The federal Trade Commission, which controls advertising for all foods, and the Department of Agriculture, whic oversees labels on meat and poultry products, are still giving food companies a free ride.

They say someone's always trying to make a better mousetrap. Looks like the food industry spends its time trying to make a better consumer-trap. Oh well. guess that's cheaper than making better foods.

Tang Sugar box

It must be tough to make your company's sugar-water sound better than the next guy's.

So the makers of Tang added less than two tablespoons of fruit juice to each 8 1/2-ounce carton, and christened their new drink Tang Fruit Box. Brilliant. Who would suspect that a "Fruit Box" is only ten percent fruit juice? Tang's ad certainly doesn't let on.

But the ad doesn't hesitate to describe Tang and three vegetables as "four clever ways a mon can disguise nutrition." So Tang is as good for kids as carrots, peas and carrots, and string beans?

Wrong, moms. Vegetable and fruits have fiber, fewer calories, and may help prevent cancer. Tang Fruit Box has sugar, flavors, a few cent's worth of vitamins. . . not to mention a deceptive name.

Electrolytes Out

Now that the Quaker Oats Company has convinced millions of exercising adults that they need Gatorade, it has apparently decided that it's time to go after the kids.

But unless your children are running marathons--or performing some other continuous exercise for one or two hours at a stretch--they don't need sports drinks to restore lost electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chlorine, and phosphorus) either during or after their work-outs.

"The concern with adults is prolonged exercise--marathons, triathalons, ultrathalons, and cycling race," explains Carl Gisolfi, of the University of Iowa. "We haven't demonstrated that kids out there are exercising enough to lose significant amounts of salt that have to be replaced with Gatorade."

Of course, quaker doesn't come righ out and say kids need Gatorade. It's much more subtle. Gatorade "supplies working muscles with energy," says the ad. Sounds great, unless you know that "energy" means calories, and that Gatorade's calories come from sugar.

Gatorade also "provides fluids and minerals," says the ad. "Fluids" just means water, and the "minerals" (110 mg of sodium, 97 mg of chlorine, 25 mg of potassium, and 24 mg of phosphorus) are no big deal.

The american diet is loaded with salt (sodium chloride) and phosphorus. There's no need to replenish them with a quick glass of Gatorade. True, we could use more potsssium--it might reduce the risk of high blood pressure. But 25 mg? you'd get more than that in a tablespoon of orange juice.

Ham & Cheese on Chutzpah

Chutzpah is the word for this ad. "Anyone can sprinkle some oats on their breade and slap the words 'oat bran' on the package," it cautions. "But at Roman Meal, we know that good, sound nutrition doesn't come from what's on a package....That's why we put a good, healthy amount of [oat bran] in all of out bran breads."

Agood, healthy amount? Roman Meal adds two--count them--two grams of oat bran to each slice of its Honey & Oat Bran bread. Roman Lite Oat Bran'n Honey and regular Roman Meal Baked with Oat Bran have only one gram!

Compare those numbers to the 28 grams in a bowl of hot oat bran cereal, and you wonder. where Roman meal gets its nerve.

Until researchers figure out whether oat bran really does lower blood cholesterol, many people will justifiably ignore this ad. We just couldn't.

Rich, Creamy Lies

"I like rich, creamy tasting things. but I also like to stay away from cholesterol and saturated fat," says the slim, leotard-clad woman in the TV commercial.

So she smothers her fruit and cereal with coffee-mate Liquid Non-Diary Creamer, the "smart new way to have the taste you like without the fat and cholesterol you don't."

What Carnation isn't telling her--or us--is that each cup of Coffee-mate has four grams of saturated fat--almost as much as the five grams in a cup of whole milk. What's more, coffee-Mate, a concoction of water, corn syrup, oil, emulsifiers, thickeners, and whitening agents, has twice as much total fat as whole milk...and none of the calcium, riboflavin, or protein.

Worse yet, you could stare of Coffee-Mate's label for six months and never figure out that it contains any saturated fat. That's because there's only 0.3 grams per tablespoon, which the FDA allows companies to round down to zero.

True, Coffee-mate does have 75 percent less saturated fat than half'n half, as the ad says. But it's stupid way to stay away from fat, saturated or not.

What's Up, Doc?

"We realize how important quality, nutritious food is to growing young bodies. That's why we have developed Looney Tunes especially for children. Each nutritious meal has no artificial colors or flavors. And most important, each is LOWFAT."

Pretty neat label. Just don't waste your time looking for any nutritious broccoli, roast chicken, or fresh fruit in Looney Tunes.

Nope. Let's feed those growing yound bodies fish sticks, fried chicken sandwiches, and cookies. Looney's got the same old junk the food industry has been dishing out to adults for years, only Tyson put them all together in a kid-size frozen meal. How nice of them.

And did somebody say "LOWFAT"? Six of the eight meals get more than 30 percent of their calories from fat.

What's most disturbing about Looney's labels is that they've been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which allows meat and poultry products to call themselves "low-fat" if they're less than ten percent fat by weight.

It has to be that lenient. If it weren't virtually no meats would qualify. But for other foods--like frozen dinners--ten percent is anything but low. (After all, whole milk is only 3.3 percent fat by weight.)

So Frozen dinners should have to meet the FDA's standard for low-fat, which is less two grams per serving.

Not a single Looney Tunes meal does.

What Bo Doesn't Know

"Now there's someome tough to take on gator," says the TV commercial that pits star athlete Bo Jackson against an alligator.

Mountain Dew Sport (made by PepsiCo) is trying to grab a piece of Gatorade's action. (With sales of more than $500 million a year, Gatorade controls 90 percent of the sports-drink market.)

Ahe why not? All you have to do is take a 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew soda (which is mostly sugar and carbonated water) and spike it with 90 mg each of sodium and potassium (plus som chlorine and phosphorus).

Terrific. high-salt are raising the risk of high blood pressure--especially among blacks, like Bo--and companies are competing with each other to add more sodium.

Oh yes. The ad says Mountain Dew Sport has "electrolytes" (that's the salt), "carbohydrates" (that's the sugar) and "vitamin C." Twenty percent of the USRDA for vitamin C is no big deal, Bo. A glass of half-OJ, half-seltzer has 80 percent.
COPYRIGHT 1990 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 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:misleading food advertising
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Previous Article:The HDL/triglycerides trap.
Next Article:Rice: go with the grain.

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