'Deceptive' Ads Win Recognition

Times Staff Writer

"The most dishonest, unfair or deceptive ad campaigns of the past year" were selected by a consortium of Washington-based consumer groups last week. Awards were presented for the television or newspaper advertisements that the groups felt promoted products with "trickery or deceit" in eight different categories, including food, alcohol, children's items and drugs.

Each winner was given, in absentia, a Harlan Page Hubbard Memorial Award, which is a modest-looking figurine holding a lemon. The award is named after an 1890s charlatan who promoted cures for kidney disease and sexual dysfunction.

The announcement of the dubious distinctions was timed to coincide with the advertising industry's own ceremony to award the Clio statuette.

Reason for Recognition

In a statement by the Center for Science in the Public Interest which accompanied the citations, the group explained its reasons for such negative recognition: "This awards ceremony was made possible, in part, by the failure of the Federal Trade Commission and other federal regulatory agencies to police unfair and deceptive advertising claims."

So much for the pre-award buildup.

The winner in the food advertisement category was . . . the Beef Industry Council for its "deceptive 'Beef Gives Strength' advertising campaign." The Center for Science credited the beef association work as "deceptively (portraying) the health effects of beef by ignoring the high-fat content of most red meats. High-fat diets have been linked with heart attacks and certain forms of cancer, not good health and strength."

Reverse kudos for alcoholic beverage advertising went to the Miller Brewing Co. This award was presented by members of the Council on Alcohol Policy. The group cited the makers of Miller High Life for misconduct because the firm's commercials "(associated) beer drinking with driving by featuring this year's Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan."

Top low honors in drug advertisements went to the Thompson Medical Co. for ads promoting Dexatrim diet pills. The National Women's Health Network singled out this campaign because it suggests that "the pills are safe to use, but neglects to mention that the product is dangerous for the 40% of all overweight people who suffer from hypertension."

Finally, there are the commercials aimed at children. In this category the U.S. Tobacco Co. was honored for "unfairly advertising Skoal Chewing Tobacco to impressionable teen-agers." Action for Children's Television selected this campaign for criticism because "chewing tobacco is gaining popularity among many young people and has been linked to cancer of the mouth."

Hold the Sawdust--Much was made of the cellulose powder, or finely ground sawdust, in Fresh Horizons bread several years ago. The unusual ingredient was included to boost the loaves' fiber content.

The product was designed to cash in on health concerns and debuted at a time when published reports linked high-fiber diets with low rates of certain cancers.

Although this wood byproduct has proved viable in food, chemists continued to search for more traditional sources of edible fiber. This research has now produced a high-quality fiber derived from apples.

The new ingredient was premiered at a food industry convention recently and may soon be used to increase the roughage content of many processed foods. This low-moisture apple byproduct was developed by Tree Top Inc., an apple-growers cooperative in Washington state.

The fiber comes from the fruit of the apple and not from seeds, peel and stems, according to Tree Top. The cooperative is hopeful that increased use of its fiber will create a greater demand for apples and thus help combat stagnant sales.

There is also a possibility the new ingredient will have some use as a pharmaceutical. The cooperative stated the apple fiber is also effective as a laxative.

Keeping Lunch Expensive--Trade associations for all segments of the business community impacted by President Reagan's proposed tax program are pressuring Congress to maintain their most cherished deduction. The restaurant industry is not to be left out in the ongoing debate.

In fact, the National Restaurant Assn. claims the food-service sector will face near ruin if Congress enacts the President's proposal to cap deductions for business meals at $25 plus 50% of the tab beyond that limit.

The group projects that if the Reagan plan is voted into law then "many leading restaurants will have to close their doors."

This dire prediction is based on the fact that the business meals targeted by the tax plan generate about $30 billion in restaurant sales annually. The loss of a sizable portion of this business would spell disaster for many of the high-ticket restaurants favored by the expense-account trade because these white cloth-napkin operations run on slim profit margins.

The limit on business-meal expenses could also mean that 100,000 food-service employees could be left without work, the association claims.

In fighting the Reagan proposal, the group states that "there is no logical rationale for capping, limiting or reducing the full deduction for business-marketing meal expenditures."

Signs of Summer--While the Center for Science and the National Restaurant Assn. may believe the federal government is not responsive to public needs, a different conclusion may be drawn from recent action by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The department's Food and Nutrition Service announced recently that it is reducing by 50% the amount of government surplus butter to be distributed during August and September. The agency explained the dramatic reduction from 12 million pounds a month to 6 million was in response to the fears of local charitable organization and soybean farmers.

The local groups, which are chartered to distribute the butter to needy families, claim that refrigerated storage for butter during hot summer months is greatly reduced. The soybean farmers got involved because the continuing flow of free government butter brings on a reduction in margarine sales.

"For every 100 pounds of butter distributed about 86 pounds of margarine were not sold," the agency reported. "This displacement injures both the soybean farmers and the people who make margarine from soybean oil."

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