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Nutritional Product Watch
Marketing or Misinformation?

Nutritional Product Watch ..

Campaign for health giving food products.

Marketing or Misinformation?

Deceptive marketing practices? - Misleading Information - Undue Influence
... all can potentially threaten public health and trust.

Are we living in the age of marketing misinformation?

Marketing is all about selling something; to get a marketing message across, may have become more important than integrity.

Marketing is not necessarily about facts, it can be of course, and as we all know, there are many positive marketing campaigns where the message was the driving force, not the desire to sell and make a profit.

There are many questions to ask, lets start with:

Can marketing be fraudulent?

It can be of course, but most marketing is NOT fraudulent, even if the marketing message may be a misrepresentation or misleading.
Marketing is Only fraudulent, if intent for fraud can be proven, or if false claims have been made.

For example, a businesses cannot make false claims about its products or services, and it makes no difference whether the business intended to mislead you or not.

For this article, we will concern ourselves only with food and drink marketing.

In my opinion, there is a lot of misrepresentation, which may be perfectly legal, but unfortunately, can be interpreted to the detriment of the concerned consumer.
The general rule is; one is not allowed to make incorrect statements or create a false impression. However, this represents us with a fine line, which needs to be investigated, and esp. regarding food, stricter guidelines may need to apply.

Some marketing uses wildly exaggerated claims, funny enough that is not a problem, because no one would assume such a message to be possibly or to treat seriously or find misleading.

For example, a baker may claim to bake the "absolute best and tastiest bread in whole Australia". - These types of claims are known as ‘puffery’ and are not considered misleading.

Strangely enough, one would find more people would buy that bread. If it comes to taste that may be OK, but what if someone claims to be the "healthiest", there is that fine line again .. and hopefully some people may contest that claim.

Another consideration is that marketing is in full view of everyone, and therefore also is "targeting vulnerable audiences".

Children are targets of nearly a quarter of the food industry's advertising budget, and children count as vulnerable.

Particular in regards to sugars, sweets, soft drinks and general junk food; regulation to protect children is absolute vital.


Brand Name Marketing:

Example of a minimal, probably not intentional misrepresentation:

Nutri-Grain® Cereal

Marketing Claim: Source of Protein and Fiber

A true icon of breakfast, Nutri-Grain® cereal just got even better, with a 4 health star rating plus the taste and crunch you love.

The question :
Is "source of Protein and Fiber", a misrepresentation ?

No, it is totally legal. I am sure the statement is correct, it certainly contains "some protein" and fiber, but does it pretend to be something what it isn't?

In my Opinion, yes ... because, percentage wise, the Nutri-Grain® cereal is a much higher source of Carbohydrates and sugars, which are not mention within the marketing claim.

This may confuse consumers, they may think of much higher protein levels, higher by example as the carbohydrates.

The misrepresenting marketing claim is intensified by the Governments "Health Star Rating System".

Surely, one trusts the Government, if they say it has a 4 star health rating, it must be very healthy, or could that be misleading as well?

I must confess, I am not in favour of a "Health Star Rating System", it seems to be a good thing, but what does it compare to?

The rating is mainly for "refined and processed foods".

This food group is not considered particularly healthy anyhow, but in order to sell it, it needs to be seen as reasonable healthy, which is achieved by the "Health Star Rating System".

The other day I came across some products that had a misleading "Health Star Rating".

I looked at 2 packets of Smoked Salmon.

The 1.packet contained just smoked salmon, and had only a rating of 3 stars. What's wrong with Salmon you may ask?

The 2. packet had a rating of 4 stars, why was that you may ask?
The 2. packet had some green colours on the package, that's a good sign :-) .... and ... it was "Salt Reduced", fantastic, isn't it?

Because of the salt reduction it must have seemed to be more healthy for those people who are in charge of "Stars". Unfortunately, being salt reduced, other additives had been added instead.

Somehow, I have the feeling that those additives could cause more health problems than a small amount of salt in smoked salmon.

NOTE: The Health Star Rating system is voluntary and will only appear on packaged food products at the discretion of food manufacturers and retailers (such as supermarkets). There are some food products which are not expected to display the Health Star Rating, which include: fresh unpackaged food (such as fresh fruit and vegetables).

What can we do about misrepresentation, and can it be prevented?

Policies may need to be delivered to regulate marketing to children so that the agencies can regulate youth-targeted marketing.

Strong rules requiring the labeling of added sugar in nutrition labels, as well as all additives.

Federal, state, and local health agencies should develop aggressive public information campaigns to emphasize the scientific evidence demonstrating sugar's, salt and additives health impacts and counter the misinformation from food manufacturers.

If misinformation can not be regulated by legislation, than successful positive marketing has to be introduces, federally, state and local.

... that's enough for the introduction into Marketing and possible misleading marketing practices.

Next : more direct Marketing examples, stay tuned .. and maybe send me some of your observation of possible misrepresentations.


useNature welcomes feedback and opinions:

Please contact me directly to assure prompt answers: Dieter L. - Editor
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