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Food Ads: What Are The Facts Behind The Spin?

Affiliate Disclosure | in Everything Else | by | with 10 Comments

Got Milk 2

A Note From Mommypotamus: Have you ever looked back at your 7th grade school photo and thought, “Wow, that totally seemed like a good idea at the time!” Well, I had a similar experience when I looked at the before and after comparison of my ebook, Nourished Baby.  Today I am honored to introduce you to the person behind the transformation. Sandrine Love is an expert in visual communication and a passionate advocate of traditional foods who has a unique perspective on the power of advertising to shape out perceptions about food. I’ve asked her to share her insights with us today.

P.S. Here’s the before and after (preview #1 | preview #2 | preview #3) if you want to take a peek. Amazing difference, yes? If you’re interested, there’s a special offer on the book here with a giveaway.   And now, the guest post!

Food Ads: What Are The Facts Behind The Spin?

When I founded Nourishing Our Children in 2005, my initial vision was to “simply” create a PowerPoint presentation that we, a group of volunteer presenters, would give to audiences in  the San Francisco Bay Area.  I wanted to teach timeless principles for supporting our children’s learning, behavior and health through optimal nutrition.  With the support of Sally Fallon Morell, the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, we created an outline of the topics we would cover in our presentation, and front and center was milk. Since that very first iteration of our PowerPoint, I’ve included ads from the got milk? campaign to address what many of us had taken for granted – that all milk is good for us.

 Got Milk 1

got milk?

got milk? has been described as one of the most famous commodity brand and influential ad campaigns in the United States. The campaign, which encourages the consumption of cow’s milk, was created for the California Milk Processor Board in 1993 and later licensed for use by other milk processors and dairy farmers. This long running series of print ads feature a variety of ethnically diverse celebrities, athletes and fictional characters sporting their own “milk mustache.” The campaign has been credited with greatly increasing milk sales in California though not nationwide.

But what kind of milk are they promoting? And does that kind of milk really “do a body good?” Is all milk created equal?

Conventional Milk

The kind of milk that the “got milk” campaign has been promoting for over a decade is pasteurized, or ultra-pasteurized, homogenized, conventional milk produced from cows in confinement eating corn or other grains which are often genetically modified and pesticide treated. They may also eat bakery waste, soy, citrus peel cake laden with pesticides and even manure from chickens, none of which constitute an appropriate diet for cows. Not what we would consider real milk. What is real milk? Real milk comes from old fashioned cows such as the Jersey and Guernsey. Real milk comes from herds allowed to graze on green pasture. Real milk is not pasteurized, it is “raw”. Real milk is not homogenized. Real milk contains butterfat and lots of it. Real milk contains no additives.

Learn more about real milk.


Using advertisements that we are all accustomed to seeing proved to be an effective way to address  common dietary myths. I added more advertisements about the dangers of saturated fats and the benefits of soy as our PowerPoint evolved and as our educational materials expanded to include a DVD and an ebook.  I want our audiences and readers to question what we are commonly told is beneficial or dangerous for our health.  Along those lines, read about this example of false advertising provided by Heather Dessinger.

Saturated Fats Demonized

We at Nourishing Our Children are deeply concerned about the fact that saturated fats have been demonized for over 50 years as one of the biggest nutritional villains.  In our educational materials, I include the following images. What do they symbolize to you?




Advertising Agency: BBH, London, UK. Art Directors / Copywriters: Dave Monk, Matt Waller. Photographer: Peter Lippmann. Ads were edited by Mohammad Naser and Sandrine Love to isolate photographic content.

Consider these symbols: a steel trap, a mouse trap, and a razor blade.

The photographs above were captured by Peter Lippmann for print ads used by the World Heart Federation that were released in 2008. The Advertising Agency is listed as BBH, London, UK. We edited the ads to reveal only the photographic content, so you could form an opinion without the corresponding ad copy and logo information. We wanted you to relate simply to the visual communication. The ads may be described as beautiful, well-made, appealing, slick and perhaps even convincing.

However, is eating butter, even regularly, akin to eating razor blades? View this print ad. Notice the razor blades next to the butter, which are somewhat camouflaged. The ad copy reads, “Open your eyes to saturated fat.” Imagine if you swallowed a razor blade? The message appears to be clear – eating butter is dangerous, and may even kill you. Does butter cause disease? On the contrary, butter from grass fed cows protects us against many diseases. Read more about Why Butter is Better.

Will eating cheese, even regularly, kill you? View this print ad and note that a search on google reveals that it has been widely published on websites in many languages. Imagine taking a piece of cheese from this table! Again, the ad copy reads, “Open your eyes to saturated fat.” The copy could read, “Don’t be tempted by cheese, eating it will kill you.” We would encourage you and yours to enjoy raw cheeses as a nutrient dense food.

Will eating steak, even regularly, be akin to putting your hand or body in a steel trap? View this print ad and notice again that the ad copy reads, “Open your eyes to saturated fat.” With the exception of butter, no other food has been subjected to such intense demonization in recent years as red meat, particularly beef. Sally Fallon Morell and Mary Enig answer the question, “Is beef good for you?” in their article It’s the Beef – “What a shame we have demonized red meat because this is one modern food, enjoyed by almost everybody, that is rich in nutrients.

Let us be very clear – saturated fats from animal foods are needed by every cell in your body. They don’t cause obesity and they are not associated with heart disease.  
If you’d like to learn more about how we got so confused about fats, read The Oiling of America by Sally Fallon Morell and Mary Enig.

The last dietary myth that I’d like to address, which is included in our educational materials is …

The Ploy of Soy

Due to the increasing number of people who are having an allergic reaction to pasteurized milk products, soy beverages have emerged as an often sought out alternative. Although widely promoted as a health food, hundreds of studies link modern processed soy to malnutrition, digestive problems, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders, immune system breakdown, and even heart disease and cancer.

Soy Ads

The other ads above promise that whole soy will result in good karma, no grumpy aftertaste, resistance to a bad day and that it will even disperse dark clouds.
 Are these examples of false advertising?

Problems with Soy

Amongst them:

  • Soy blocks absorption of vital nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and especially zinc, due to phytic acid.
  • Soy blocks thyroid function and cause endocrine disruption in the reproductive hormones of both males and females due to phytoestrogens.
  • Soy irritate the gastrointestinal tract due to lectins.

Here is a more comprehensive list of problems. How could soy be linked to all this disease? Because the soybean contains many naturally occurring toxins. All legumes contain toxins but the problem with soy is that the toxins are found in very high levels and are resistant to the traditional ways of getting rid of them.

What separates our cause from others who are focused on nutrition? From our mission statement:

Our cause not only identifies the problems with Oreos, cola, candy and other obvious junk foods. We also present research that illustrates how foods widely assumed to be nutritional – including packaged foods commonly described as “organic”, “natural” or “fortified” – are themselves heavily processed and stripped of nutritional value. While these labels provide a convenient way for parents to determine which foods to buy, the items associated with those labels often betray the standard of optimal nutrition.

Even more important, we  demonstrate that many traditional foods now considered unhealthy are, in fact, vital to the growth and intellectual development of our children. We intend to help parents see the facts behind the spin, so that the decisions they make about the food they buy is not determined by commercials, labels or lobby groups, but rather by timeless dietary principles.

About The Author

Sandrine Love previously worked as a family therapist, art therapist, teacher, and as an educational therapist in private practice before she established Nourishing Our Children in 2005. Convinced that the children she worked with were well-fed but malnourished, Sandrine closed her private practice to devote herself to the cause of educating and inspiring parents to return to the whole, natural foods that have produced generation after generation of healthy children. She founded the San Francisco Chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation in 2004 and served as the volunteer chapter leader for more than a year. She has also taught Nourishing Traditions and Moroccan cooking classes. Beyond her own visual communication business, she currently serves Nourishing Our Children as both the executive and creative director. Sandrine has received an activist award from the Weston A. Price Foundation in 2006 for her leadership role.

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10 Responses to Food Ads: What Are The Facts Behind The Spin?

  1. Mommypotamus says:

    Thank you for this post, Sandrine! It’s hard to decide which ad I find more appalling. On the one hand, the use of Batman to sell factory farm milk to kids is so sad, but I think it’s the campaign against saturated fat that really gets me. Before I had kids I worked in PR. One of the guys in my office was 26 years old and on statin drugs. He lifted weights and ran, ate a restricted diet of so-called “healthy” fats (aka very little saturated fat), and yet his doctor was terrified he was going to keel over from a heart attack by 40. Everything about the situation was like a giant neon sign pointing to the dangers of popular dietary recommendation, and yet because of the messages our culture is bombarded with no one seemed to question it.

    I think Michael Pollan was right when he wrote that “if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims.” Thank you for all you are doing to challenge these ideas!

    • Sandrine Love says:

      Thank you, Heather, for the opportunity to get acquainted with your readers and for your support in creating this particular post, which proved to be new way to present what we have in our educational materials!

  2. Erin Waterbury says:

    I guess I see what those ads were aiming at but when I looked at those pictures all I could think was “yum!” I never really bought the feminization of cheese (or maybe I did but I sure want giving it up) but I was vegetarian a few years because I thought it was the healthy choice. IK glad a change in circumstances got me to do that before I had any major health issues. And while it may not be easy to convince a reluctant spouse that the diet dictocrats are making it all up, it sure is easier to get him to eat high fat nutrient rich foods than it was to convince ANYONE that that low fat/low sodium stuff was any good.

  3. barb says:

    just got your book through the bundle was getting ready to read…… will you send us the updated version then since I literally just bought it? thanks!

  4. Tiffani Beckman says:

    just another great reason to TURN OFF THE TV! If you still watch TV, you have no idea how freeing it is to not be programmed by all the cr*p that is on. It is ridiculous the amount of stuff they throw at you. If the TV is on at a friend’s house, I find it hard not to stare at – it is definitely addicting. Then some commercial comes on that I want to either laugh at, or yell at, and that’s the end of it. Reenforces my commitment to raise my kids without media as long as possible. The stuff out there is toxic. stay far, far away.

    • Sandrine Love says:

      Hi Tiffani, there are a lot of advertisements for foods we would not recommend on television, however all of these in our educational materials are online and/or in print. So if you open up a “health magazine” focused on yoga you will likely see soy ads. The got milk campaign print ads are seen everywhere. Even if you turn off your television, one needs to be fairly isolated to have no knowledge of the got milk? campaign. That is why I think it is critical to educate on the facts behind the spin. It may not be realistic to isolate ourselves to such a degree that we would not encounter the formidable advertising behind many of the foods we would advise one avoid. As we drive, we see billboards!

  5. Angie says:

    It seems to be shockingly easy to manipulate many people’s ideas of things using images and advertising. Sadly, if you present people with written words, no matter how well-proven or convincing, it doesn’t stand up to well-run advertising campaigns with visually appealing imagery. It reminds me of the “high-fructuose corn syrup is good for you” ads that ran years ago when it was finally overwhelmingly too obvious to deny that HFCS is really, really bad for you–and was also contaminated with mercury.
    The food industry ran ads showing stupid-looking ignorant people saying it was bad, and affluent, intelligent-looking people saying “It’s just corn!”
    We need some well-done ads promoting good things! Like an ad showing beautiful, independent women brestfeeding–or gorgeous people drinking raw milk–or eating liver!!
    I think blogs like this one help to bring food consciousness into the mainstream, because it has an appealing imagery and optimism to it. I really enjoy reading here!

  6. Green in 365: Weekend Links & Resources says:

    […] Food Ads: What are the Facts Behind the Spin at Mommypotamus – I’ve been thinking a lot about food ads recently (maybe I’ll share more about that in an upcoming post), but I thought this post was interesting and thought provoking. […]

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