Friday, May 5, 2017

Fake Advertising

When you say something inaccurate about a product, it’s considered false advertising.  What about when you say something that is technically true for all products, yours and all your competitors, but you say it in a way to imply your product is superior?  That is not technically false advertising, but it can be as deceptive, trying to take advantage of uninformed shoppers.

 A recent example came from the bottle of orange juice labeled as Non-GMO.  After a little research I found that GMO oranges have not yet been developed, so all orange juice is non-GMO.  The development of the modified oranges is an effort to save the industry from a devastating disease while reducing the use of insecticides.  This brand is just trying to prey on those naïve shoppers who are automatically scared by the term GMO and lured in by the opposite.  (Actually, some non-GMO products contain fewer vitamins than their GMO alternatives.)

This orange juice incident came on the heels of Hunt’s Company likewise claiming that their tomatoes were non-GMO when that is also true of everyone else.  You can even buy non-GMO salt! – Although where they would find genes in NaCl to modify is a mystery.

Now I find, proudly announced on my favorite store-brand ice cream carton, the words, “NO artificial hormones in our cream and milk.”  Are they trying to rely on my lack of scientific knowledge or disinclination to look things up to scare me into buying their brand?  It seems they are.

When I look up artificial hormones in cows and milk (usually abbreviated rbGH or sometimes BST), I find a host of information.  Most of it is negative and scary.  The words cancer and Monsanto are prominent with lots of discussion of organic superiority.  But these are the emotional arguments obviously written to promote the same knee-jerk negative reactions to anything not pure and natural.

In one of these from the Sustainable Table, they explain that hormone-treated cows give milk with an elevated level of IGF-1, but add:  “Although no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in milk and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship.”  What, no direct link, only a concern about the possibility?

The FDA approves the practice of treating cows.  They found “that the available data confirm that biologically significant amounts of rbGH are not absorbed in humans following the consumption of milk from cows treated with rbGH.”

More detailed scientific information comes from a Utah State University posting.  “There are no differences in milk composition from cows treated with BST and from cows which were not treated. All cows produce BST and all milk contains BST.”  “The synthetic form of BST cannot be distinguished in the milk from the natural form.”

They also point out that “BST is digested by humans just like any other protein…one would not obtain the active hormone by drinking milk or eating cheese.”

This contradicts the common idea found in the scarier articles tell you concern for your family should lead you to choose from their list of brands that are safe, where in reality they are all safe.

Finally, a site billing itself as “Science-based information & resources on agriculture, food and technology” has quite a bit to say about the real science behind the artificial hormone panic.  Extensive studies of rbGH safety have been conducted worldwide and reviewed by the FDA, after which both milk and meat from rbGH-injected cows were deemed safe. Separate reviews of the data by the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, and reviews by the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of the American Dietetic Association all independently concluded that milk from rbGH injected cows is safe.”  They explain that the reason for the bans in the EU and Canada were driven by consumer concerns but primarily “based not on human health concerns but on animal welfare issues.”

Each time one of these false arguments wins, we pay more for an unnecessary difference.  I have found another brand of ice cream, but don't expect my individual action will stop the tsunami of bad science.  Each one of these trigger words on the package is an indirect insult to us all, playing on unsubstantiated consumer fears.  Ironically, the most artificial parts of our food supply seem to be the myths promulgated by advertisers to manipulate so many credulous consumers.

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