Planters message is piece of junk (food)

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It's only April, of course, and we have so much to look forward to, but from Foote, Cone & Belding, New York, and Nabisco Foods, say hello to the sleaziest ad of the year so far:

A man and his chimpanzee companion, marooned on a desert island, are excited to see food crates washing up on shore. "Planters nuts!" the hungry man cries.

Naturally he pulls out a can and is about to start eating, but then he pauses.

"Actually, Cootchie, perhaps we shouldn't. We have to watch what we eat."

Dejected, he starts to walk away, but the chimp looks at the label and squeals for his attention. Now the guy reads the label, too.

"All this good stuff, and no cholesterol?!" he exclaims. "Cootchie, to the lounge chairs!"

On the beach they then feast on mixed nuts. A super shows up on the bottom of the screen: "A cholesterol-free food. Fourteen grams of fat per serving." (Actually, the label says 16 grams, which means that nuts are 55% fat.)

And then the voice-over kicks in:

"Planters nuts. Fresh roasted taste, no cholesterol. Planters. Relax. Go nuts."

Why not? What does Nabisco care if you die?

While the advertiser certainly bears no responsibility for warning consumers away from high-fat products, it has no business portraying junk food as "good stuff." This ad is a brazen defiance of the Food & Drug Administration, of the consumer and of the truth.

First of all, eating cholesterol-laden products isn't a big issue. Most harmful cholesterol is produced by the body itself from the saturated fat content of foods.

Therefore, FDA guidelines permit a no-cholesterol claim only if total saturated fat per serving is less than 20% of the recommended daily value.

Mixed nuts have total fat per serving of 24% of the RDV, but on saturated fat they come in at 11%--technically qualifying for the no-cholesterol claim.

That's if you buy that 1 ounce constitutes a realistic "serving."

One ounce is a small handful. Two handfuls would go well beyond the 20% threshold, and take up 48% of the daily recommended fat intake.

But put that aside for a moment, because dubious serving sizes are hardly the point. The point is that this ad isn't just saying "no cholesterol."

It's saying, no cholesterol, so don't worry. "Relax. Go nuts," is the tagline. Pig out, in other words. Eat all you want.

The ad raises the issue of sensible eating, then deflates it, strongly implying that mixed nuts provide no cause for dietary concern.

Which is disgraceful, misleading and fundamentally dishonest--because, as any physician will tell you, going nuts on nuts is nuts.

There would have been nothing wrong with a commercial that got to the point of "lower in saturated fat than you'd expect."

But that's a whole lot different from claiming the fat content is irrelevant and encouraging consumers to think of the nuts as health food.

The "good stuff" he's reading about on the label? This is the list in its entirety: Vitamin A 0% (of the recommended daily value), Vitamin C 0%. Calcium 4%, Iron 8%, Phosphorous 10%, Magnesium 15%, Copper 20%.

Oh, yeah, that'll give Centrum a run for its money. Next from Nabisco:

"Oreos. Cures cancer."

Copyright April 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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