Inappropriate Advertisements

Attempts to sell large quantities of products sometimes cause advertisers to make claims that are not entirely factual. For instance, an advertisement for a particular brand of bread claimed the bread had fewer calories per slice than its competitors. What the advertisement did not say was that the bread was sliced much thinner than other brands.

Deceptive advertising has also been employed to persuade women to change their infant feeding practices. Advertisers commonly urge mothers to use infant formula to supplement breast milk. Marketing strategies include

Implicit Food Advertisements
One strategy used by advertisers is to feature a celebrity in their advertisements or on their packaging. The implicit message is that the celebrity endorses the product, uses the product, and may even depend on the product for success. [AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.]

giving women trial packs or coupons for several months of free formula. Often, women are not aware that supplementing breast milk with formula will reduce or stop their milk supply. When the samples and coupons are no longer available, women may try to "stretch" the formula by mixing it with water, unaware that diluting the formula places their infant at risk for malnutrition. Many groups have objected to the use of marketing strategies that include free formula and coupons, and infant-formula manufacturing companies have been forced to modify their marketing practices.

Other marketing strategies involve labeling foods as "light," meaning that one serving contains about 50 percent less fat than the original version (or one-third fewer calories). For example, a serving of light ice cream contains 50 percent less fat than a serving of regular ice cream. As a result, consumers mistakenly believe that eating light food means eating healthful food. However, they fail to realize that a serving of the light version of a food such as ice cream can still contain more fat and sugar than is desirable.

Food labels with conflicting information often confront consumers. For example, labels claiming "no fat" do not necessarily mean zero grams of fat. Food labeling standards define low-fat foods as those containing less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving. Therefore, consuming several servings may mean consuming one or two grams of fat, and people are often unaware of what amount of a food constitutes a "serving." In addition, foods low in fat may be high in sugar, adding additional calories to one's daily caloric intake. Too often, consumers mistakenly translate a claim of "no fat" into one of "no calories."

Other examples of conflicting claims include labels advertising foods as "high in fiber," without specifically indicating the presence of high levels of salt, sugar, or other nutrients. Also, labels advertising dairy products as high in calcium, and thus offering protection from osteoporosis, are often missing information relating to the high fat content and its possible contribution to the risk of heart disease.

Consumers are also misled by food comparisons. For example, one fruit drink may be advertised as containing more vitamin C than another, when in reality neither of the drinks are a good source of the vitamin. In addition, malnutrition: chronic lack of sufficient nutrients to maintain health fat: type of food molecule rich in carbon and hydrogen, with high energy content nutrient: dietary substance necessary for health calcium: mineral essential for bones and teeth osteoporosis: weakening of the bone structure labels on some fruit drinks claim that the product "contains real fruit juice" when, in reality, the fine print reveals that one serving contains "less than 10% fruit juice."

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